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Sami Bouzid
Friday 9 November 2018 Last update on Friday, November 9, 2018 At 10:05 AM

Relations between the Palestinian Authority and China have always been close. The latter vows to play a positive role in settling the Israel-Palestine issue.

Relations between the Palestinian Authority and China began during the 1950s and 1960s and primarily consisted on providing supply of goods and materials to the PLO (Palestine Liberation Organisation) under the leadership of the Chinese government headed by Mao Zedong.

China thus became in 1965 the first non-Arab state in the world to enter into diplomatic relations with the PLO. Since then, the general Chinese positive role in settling the Israel-Palestine issue has almost remained unchanged, with Beijing continuing its rhetorical support to the Palestinians’ demand for statehood, while promoting good relations with all states.

Palestine and China agree to start negotiations to reach a free-trade agreement

China and Palestine officially agreed on Tuesday to launch negotiations over a free trade agreement (FTA) in order to strengthen economic cooperation, according to China’s Ministry of Commerce. The two sides officially launched the joint feasibility study of the FTA on November 2017 and recently signed a memorandum of understanding to begin talks over bilateral economic and commercial cooperation during Chinese Vice President Wang Qishan’s last visit to Palestine.

In 2017, China-Palestine bilateral trade volume reached $69.28 million, 16.2 percent more compared to the same period the year before. Four months ago, Chinese President Xi Jinping called to hold a new international conference to encourage efforts aiming to reach a durable two-state solution and revive the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative. He also announced the allocation of $15 million to help Palestine at the 8th Ministerial Meeting of the China-Arab States Cooperation Forum (CASCF).

Economic interests first and politics later?

China has traditionally backed the Palestinian Authority, but it is going back to a model based on good relations with all states. As one of five permanent members of the Security Council and one of the world’s two largest Economys, it has indeed to take responsibility for easing global tensions. Moreover, the five principles as stated by the famous Panchsheel Treaty that was signed on April 1957 include among others “mutual non-interference in each other’s internal affairs” and “peaceful coexistence”.

Recently the Israel-China relationships have rapidly expanded on a number of fronts (commerce, education exchanges, tourism…). Despite their differences, the two sides seek to expand partnerships outside of their region. Yet tapping into new markets, promoting stability and growing relations with Israel, China’s capabilities of supporting Palestine have been eroded, symbolically if not practically.

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