BEIJING (AP) — A Palestinian envoy said Friday that he hoped China would play a greater role in supporting his people in their conflict with Israel as a counterweight to the United States' influence over the peace process.
Bassam al-Salhi told The Associated Press in Beijing following a meeting with Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi that China said it backed the Palestinians in the Gaza conflict and in their bid to upgrade their status at the United Nations. He said Beijing was giving them $1 million in aid.
But Al-Salhi said Beijing could still do more for the Palestinians.
"We think that China should, can take more (of a) role in the area, to support ending the occupation and have the peace process more balanced, because we think the Israelis are using all the time the position of the United States, which is supporting the Israelis," he said.
The talks in Beijing followed Gaza's first day of calm after the fiercest fighting in years between Israel and Hamas militants. A cease-fire Wednesday ended eight days of airstrikes and artillery attacks by Israel and rocket attacks by Palestinian militants that killed 161 Palestinians and six Israelis.
China's Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters in a routine briefing that Yang told al-Salhi that Beijing hopes that all sides will maintain their commitment to the cease-fire.
The foreign minister told al-Salhi that "the Gaza conflict underscores again the significance and urgency of resolving the Palestine issue," she said.
"The global community should fully appreciate the gravity of this, make greater efforts in making peace and negotiation possible, and help Palestine and Israel resume talks as soon as possible and achieve substantial progress," Hua described Yang as saying.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas wants China's help in pressing for an upgrade in the Palestinians' U.N. status from permanent observer to nonmember observer, which could boost their chances of joining additional U.N. bodies such as the International Criminal Court, where they could attempt to prosecute Israel.
Israel and the United States oppose the move, saying Palestinians should negotiate their statehood via peace talks and not conduct unilateral moves.
China has increasingly played a more active diplomatic role in the Middle East. It recently announced its own four-point plan for a political solution to the Syrian conflict, although observers said it was vague and did not significantly add to past peace plans that have failed.
The Egyptian-sponsored cease-fire that took effect Wednesday night in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict aims to halt years of Palestinian rocket attacks on southern Israel and ease border closings that have stifled Gaza's economy. But vague language in the agreement and deep hostility between the combatants make it far from certain that the bloodshed will end.