20231019 xi jinping
Chinese President Xi Jinping Image Credit: AFP

Beijing: Chinese President Xi Jinping told Egypt's prime minister on Thursday that their countries should work together to bring "more stability" to the Middle East, as the Israel-Hamas war casts a shadow over the region.

The conflict has raged since Palestinian militant group Hamas launched shock raids into Israel on October 7, killing 1,400 people - most of them civilians - and taking around 200 hostages.

In response, Israel has laid siege to Gaza, carrying out waves of air strikes in the Palestinian enclave, enforcing a blockade and massing troops on its border ahead of an expected ground assault.

Top UN humanitarian official Martin Griffiths on Wednesday said the situation in Gaza was dire, with hospitals overwhelmed, more than 3,000 Gazans killed and 12,500 injured.

China has repeatedly backed a vague two-state proposal on the decades-long deadlock that preceded the war, but it has historically been sympathetic to the Palestinian cause - albeit in favour of the nationalist Palestine Liberation Organisation rather than Islamist Hamas.

Xi met Egypt's Mostafa Madbouli in Beijing on Thursday, repeating China's support for a "two-state solution... to realise the peaceful coexistence of Palestine and Israel", according to multiple state media outlets.

"China is willing to enhance cooperation with Egypt... and inject more certainty and stability into the region and the world," Xi was reported as saying.

Beijing was also willing to work with Cairo to "jointly safeguard international fairness and justice as well as the common interests of developing countries", he said.

Since the outbreak of hostilities, Egypt has mostly kept closed its border with Gaza, where the humanitarian situation has become increasingly desperate.

However, Cairo said Thursday it would allow the "sustainable" passage of humanitarian aid into the enclave through the Rafah crossing.

China "appreciates the important role played by Egypt in de-escalating the situation and supports Egypt's efforts to open humanitarian corridors", Xi told Madbouli.

"It is crucial to prevent the conflict from expanding or even losing control and causing a serious humanitarian crisis," Xi said.

"The top priority is to cease fire and stop war at an early date," he added.

Warming ties

Relations between China and Egypt have warmed in recent months, with Cairo set to become an official member of the recently expanded BRICS group of emerging economies from next year.

"China congratulates Egypt on joining the BRICS cooperation mechanism and believes that this will inject new impetus into BRICS cooperation," Xi said in his meeting with Madbouli.

"China and Egypt are good friends who share the same goals and trust each other, and good partners who work hand-in-hand for development and common prosperity", he said.

"At present, the international and regional situation is undergoing profound and complex changes, and the world is experiencing rapid transformations not seen for a century," Xi said.