Abbas arrives in China as Beijing looks to expand influence in Mideast

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BEIJING, China — Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas arrived in Beijing on Tuesday, state media reported, with China expressing readiness to help facilitate Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

Abbas will stay until Friday, Beijing has said, on his fifth official visit to the world’s second-largest economy.

Official Palestinian news agency Wafa reported that Abbas will meet with President Xi Jinping during the trip.

The two are expected to “exchange opinions… on the latest developments on the Palestinian arena as well as on regional and international issues of mutual concern,” Wafa reported.

Abbas will also meet with Premier Li Qiang, the news agency added.

The longtime Palestinian leader is an “old and good friend of the Chinese people,” foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said last week.

“China has always firmly supported the just cause of the Palestinian people to restore their legitimate national rights,” he added.

China’s President Xi Jinping (right), and his Palestinian counterpart, Mahmoud Abbas, attend a signing ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China. (AP/Jason Lee)

Beijing has sought to boost its ties to the Middle East, challenging long-standing US influence there — efforts that have sparked unease in Washington.

President Xi last December visited Saudi Arabia on an Arab outreach trip that also saw him meet with Abbas and pledge to “work for an early, just and durable solution to the Palestinian issue.”

And during a trip to Riyadh last week, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Saudi Arabia was not being forced to choose between Washington and Beijing, striking a conciliatory tone following tensions with the long-time ally.

In this photo released by Nournews, Secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, Ali Shamkhani, right, China’s most senior diplomat Wang Yi, center, and Saudi Arabia’s National Security Adviser Musaad bin Mohammed al-Aiban looks on during an agreement signing ceremony between Iran and Saudi Arabia to reestablish diplomatic relations and reopen embassies after seven years of tensions between the Mideast rivals, in Beijing, China, Friday, March 10, 2023. (Nournews via AP)

In an interview with Chinese state news agency Xinhua published this week, Palestinian official Abbas Zaki said China and the Palestinians were “friends closer than brothers.”

“I am very pleased to see that China has been more involved in Middle East affairs after the China-Arab States Summit last year,” he added.

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