China's top diplomat due in Israel for rare high-level visit

Foreign Minister Wang Yi is expected to focus his talks on Iran and the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.

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December 17, 2013 00:36
1 minute read.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi 370. (photo credit: Reuters)

 
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Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi is scheduled to arrive in Israel Tuesday evening for the highest level Chinese visit in years, and the first visit by a Chinese foreign minister since 2009.

Unlike Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s visit to China in May, which focused on economic issues, Wang is expected to focus his talks on Iran and the Israel-Palestinian negotiations.

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The visit is part of a wider regional trip that will take Wang to the Palestinian Authority, Algeria, Morocco and Saudi Arabia.

In Jerusalem he is expected to meet with Netanyahu, President Shimon Peres and Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman.

China is one of the P5+1 countries negotiating with Iran, and the visit was planned some two months ago. Netanyahu is expected to discuss with Wang the first-stage agreement reached with Iran in Geneva last month, as well as the final agreement to be negotiated. Israel is expected to try to impress on Wang what it feels needs to be done in any such agreement.

Wang is also scheduled to take part in a symposium Thursday with Israeli and Palestinian academics who will discuss the Middle East diplomatic process and the role China could play.

While, historically, China has not taken much of a role in the conflict, in recent months it has signaled an interest to become more closely involved. Just prior to Netanyahu’s visit in May, during a visit by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, the Chinese published a four-point peace plan that called for a two-state solution, the end of violence, the halting of settlement construction and the immediate renewal of negotiations.



The move was widely seen in Jerusalem as a realization in Beijing that as China emerges as the world’s leading economic power, it needs to take a more prominent role on the world’s diplomatic stage and not content itself with staying on the sidelines and letting others – such as the US and Russia – lead the way in everything except what touches on China’s immediate neighborhood.

China’s Xinhua news agency reported Monday that Wang spoke by phone with US Secretary of State John Kerry on Sunday and exchanged views about the Israeli- Palestinian negotiations and the situation in Syria. According to the report, Wang urged Israel and the Palestinians to implement “more practical measures to build up mutual trust in order to make substantial achievement sooner.”

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