What to expect from China’s stance on Palestine?
    A long track of mediation

    ANALYTICS  04 May 2024 - 10:28

    Fuad Shahbazov

    On April 30, rival Palestinian groups Hamas and Fatah gathered together in China to discuss possibilities of reconciliation amid the Gaza war. The move came as a part of China’s attempts to mediate the disputes between groups in an effort to find a solution to the devastating war. The groups have competed for years, but the Israeli war on the Gaza Strip has provoked further talks on Palestinian reconciliation. According to the Chinese Foreign Ministry statement, “the two sides fully expressed their political will to achieve reconciliation through dialogue and consultation, discussed many specific issues, and made positive progress.”

    Reportedly, the unity talks, facilitated by China, ended in a willingness for rapprochement through dialogue. Since 2007, Palestinians have been divided, with Hamas governing the Gaza Strip and Fatah governing the occupied West Bank, despite numerous meetings and mediations attempting to end the division. The two factions fought a fratricidal war after the 2006 elections, which led to Hamas fighters expelling Fatah from the Gaza Strip.

    The Beijing meeting comes nearly six months after Israel declared war on Hamas in Gaza in response to the militant group’s October 7 attack on southern Israel. Fatah's rule of the West Bank is under threat due to an increased Israeli presence in the region. The war erupted in October and put Hamas and Gaza residents in hot water as Israel's military operation destroyed nearly all Hamas military infrastructure in the Gaza Strip.

    Despite the long-term enmity between Israel and Hamas, the latter has said for more than 15 years that it could accept a two-state compromise with Israel but has refused to say it would recognize Israel or renounce its armed fight against it. Moreover, Hamas has long refused to acknowledge the Fatah government in Hamas and its peace accords with Israel. Such an approach prevented all parties from reaching a consensus on several important issues based on two-state solutions.

    Since October 7, many regional countries like Egypt, Qatar, Oman, and Türkiye attempted to ensure a diplomatic thaw between Hamas and Fatah, though unsuccessful. In February 2024, Hamas officials left Cairo after talks with Egyptian officials on a new proposal for a ceasefire in Gaza. However, China sees in this attempt a golden opportunity to increase its geopolitical weight in the Middle East after the diplomatic coup of March 2023, when it succeeded in bringing about a historic détente agreement between Saudi Arabia and Iran. That is added to weighing in on the post-war plan for the region. China, which underscored its pro-Palestinian stance since the start of the Gaza war on October 7, also hopes to draw at least one symbolic agreement from this sequence to assert itself as the leader of the Global South.

    Beijing has been a supporter of the Palestinians since the Mao era and has long called for a two-state solution, but it is increasingly close to Israel and is presenting itself as a neutral party that holds steadfast to a noninterference principle. Unlike its partner Iran, Beijing seeks to balance between Israel and Palestine accurately so that it can maintain positive records on both sides. Nevertheless, Beijing still didn’t have strong enough influence in the deeply complex region to effect a real solution.

    Consequently, some Western powers cautiously watched China's attempt to boost its soft power in the Middle East through mediation diplomacy. As such, in the early stages of the war, US officials more than once called on China to exercise its influence in the Middle East to de-escalate tensions. However, when Hamas and Fatah representatives landed in Beijing for talks, the Western partners criticized Beijing's attempts to interfere and its support for pro-Palestinian groups.

    Although the current negotiations did not yield significant results, China will likely keep the mediation track active to strike a deal or long-term ceasefire between Israel-Hamas and Hamas-Fatah.

    Caliber.Az

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