Beijing (Reuters) – China is willing to play a positive role to help the Palestinians achieve internal reconciliation and promote peace talks with Israel, Chinese President Xi Jinping told his Palestinian counterpart in Beijing on Wednesday.
“The fundamental solution to the Palestinian issue lies in the establishment of an independent Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital,” Xi said, according to Chinese state media.
Palestinians seek statehood in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, territories occupied by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war. Israel withdrew soldiers and settlers from Gaza in 2005 but continues to expand settlements in the West Bank and calls Jerusalem its eternal, indivisible capital.
Peace talks that were brokered by the United States collapsed in 2014, with no revival on the horizon.
“We have always firmly supported the just cause of the Palestinian people to restore their legitimate national rights,” Xi told Abbas at a welcoming ceremony at Beijing’s Great Hall of the People.
China has had historically good ties with the Palestinians and since Abbas’ last visit in 2017 has consistently talked up its capabilities in mediation, although with little to show in this regard until it brokered a surprise deal between Iran and Saudi Arabia to restore diplomatic relations in March.
Abbas is in Beijing on a three-day visit in which he hoped to demonstrate Chinese support for a Palestinian state, after failing to meet with U.S. officials while in New York for the United Nations General Assembly last year.
Xi reiterated Chinese support for the Palestinian Authority becoming a full member of the United Nations and said Beijing would continue to stand up for the Palestinian side in multilateral forums, state media reported.
The United States opposes full Palestinian U.N. membership barring a peace deal with Israel, a step requiring a vote in the Security Council where the U.S., like China, holds a veto.
Palestinians’ internal divisions have posed another obstacle to peacemaking, with the Islamist Hamas movement that rules Gaza sworn to Israel’s destruction. Abbas heads the Palestinian Authority that exercises limited self-rule in the West Bank.
Xi also said the international community should increase development and humanitarian assistance to the Palestinians.
Xi and Abbas also announced the two sides had agreed to establish a strategic partnership and signed a number of bilateral cooperation documents.
Those include an economic and technological cooperation pact, a deal on mutual visa exemption for diplomatic passports, and a friendship between the Chinese city of Wuhan and Ramallah, seat of the Palestinian government in the occupied West Bank.
On Tuesday, Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang offered to contribute “Chinese wisdom” to the “Palestinian issue” in a separate meeting with Palestinian counterpart Riyad al-Maliki.