Bloomberg News

China Says Middle East Conflict Too Complex for U.S. Alone (1)

June 19, 2013

The Middle East’s challenges are too complicated for the U.S. to address alone, a top Chinese envoy said today, as the government seeks greater influence in a region that’s the source of 50 percent of its oil imports.

China’s new leadership is paying great attention to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Wu Sike, China’s special envoy for the Middle East, told the official Xinhua News Agency in comments reported yesterday. He spoke as China hosted United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, who is scheduled to meet President Xi Jinping today.

“The Middle East problems are too complex to be solved single-handedly, including by a superpower like America taking the leading role,” Wu said. “It’s not that the U.S. doesn’t want to solve it, it’s that they can’t solve it.”

Since becoming president in March, Xi has taken steps to bolster China’s role in promoting peace between Israel and the Palestinians, including hosting visits by the two sides’ leaders and proposing a plan to resolve the conflict. The Middle East may feature more prominently in China’s pursuit of natural resources amid forecasts the country will overtake the U.S. as the world’s top crude importer in 2014.

Since taking his post earlier this year, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has pushed to restart peace talks deadlocked for almost three years. Xi’s proposal, announced last month, called for a halt to settlement activities, an end to violence against civilians and lifting the blockade of the Gaza Strip. He called for an independent Palestinian state on the basis of 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital.

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“It’s no doubt that the United States is still a main contributor to the peace process, but the Middle East is in an urgent need of a new force,” Xinhua said in a commentary today. “While other parties may be talking the talk, Beijing is walking the walk.”

China doesn’t want to exclude others from the peace process, Wu said in the interview with Xinhua. Xi’s proposal shows China has “the courage to face global hot-spot issues and positively carry out the responsibilities of a world power,” Wu was quoted as saying.

Crude imports into China averaged about 5.5 million barrels a day last year, with half of it coming from the Middle East, according to customs data.

China is hosting a two-day UN meeting to discuss how to revive the peace process, though no one from Israel’s ruling Likud party was listed among the participants. Ban fears that conflict in Syria could lead the international community to lose sight of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, according to remarks prepared for the meeting.

“The coming weeks will be critical,” Ban said. “I cannot stress enough the risk of missing the current window of opportunity.”

To contact Bloomberg News staff for this story: Henry Sanderson in Beijing at hsanderson@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Rosalind Mathieson at rmathieson3@bloomberg.net


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