China offers to broker Netanyahu-Abbas meeting

Both leaders set to travel to Beijing next week, days after Arab League endorses idea of minor land swaps for peace

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas at a peace conference in Washington, DC on September 2, 2010. (photo credit: Moshe Milner/GPO/Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas at a peace conference in Washington, DC on September 2, 2010. (photo credit: Moshe Milner/GPO/Flash90)

BEIJING — The Chinese government says it is willing to set up a meeting between the Israeli prime minister and the Palestinian president when the two leaders visit Beijing next week, if the sides expressed interest in doing so.

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said Friday at a regular briefing that China would be happy to facilitate a meeting between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas if they were willing to meet.

Abbas will be in China from Sunday to Tuesday, overlapping with Netanyahu’s Monday-Friday visit.

Negotiations for peace between the sides have been frozen for more than four years.

China has traditionally had a low profile in Middle East diplomacy but in recent years has tried to play a more active role in the region.

On Monday, the Arab League for the first time showed some flexibility vis-a-vis the decade-old Saudi peace plan, which called for the normalization of Israel-Arab relations in exchange for Israel’s return to pre-1967 lines. The League declared that in order to reach a final settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, “comparable,” mutually-agreed and “minor” land swaps could be possible.

After both Israeli and Palestinian leaders signaled a certain satisfaction with the Arab League’s move, it seems that a renewal of peace talks may be imminent.

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