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China As The Next Honest Broker?

By Farzana Hassan-Shahid

28 July, 2006

With the Conservative Canadian government's demonstrated pro-Israel leanings in the latest round of violence in the Middle East, Canada must regrettably abandon its aspirations of ever playing honest broker in any proposed peace process. Many have rightly criticized Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government for its oblique bias in favor of Israel, calling its counterattacks on Hezbollah and Lebanon "a measured response". In doing so, Canada has joined the questionable Bush administration in allowing Israel to conduct its massive air strikes with impunity, which has already taken a heavy toll on human life and left Lebanon in a shambles.

Russia's conspicuous silence in the current crisis also raises questions about its effectiveness as a geopolitical power capable of delivering peace in the region. Thus far she has passively watched Israeli tanks roll into Southern Lebanon and Katyusha's fly over Israel.

The question now is, who is best equipped to step into Russia's shoes as a genuine honest broker? Would China assume a greater role in the region, even though it is not part of the latter-day Alexandria quartet made up of the United States, the United Nations, Russia and the European Union that has traditionally exerted a concerted influence on Middle East politics and that must ratify any proposal for a lasting peace in the war-torn region?

China has consistently expressed a desire to facilitate peace in this troubled region of the world—the "black hole" of global geopolitics. In this regard it has made the following proposals to the two parties. As a first stage in resolving the dispute, China sees the building of mutual trust as a fundamental imperative.

This would be followed by the birth of a sovereign Palestinian state, which will recognize Israel's right to exist and acknowledge Israel’s sovereign right to peace and security. The UN Security Council must meet as early as possible, suggests China, to discuss a comprehensive peace.

Lastly, the world community must be actively engaged in seeing that peace is maintained in the region after the proposed peace plan is implemented.

China's proposals also bear a striking resemblance to the Russian position on the Middle East over the years. Both are opposed to Palestinian violence but recognize the urgency of implementing the peace plan. They are also both highly critical of Israel's construction of a defensive wall around the Palestinian territories.

While the world balks at the escalating war in the Middle East, it cannot help but notice the disparity in military strength between Israel and its foes. The death toll on the Lebanese side is much heavier and the destruction to its infrastructure immeasurable in terms of the hideous collateral damage.

Through all this, the United States has chosen to sit back, allowing Israel to continue its insane barrage of air strikes, as well as attacks by land and sea. Other than urging "restraint", the United States has expressed unwavering support for the Jewish state despite the fact that Israel's actions have been denounced by the world community not only as disproportionate but utterly inhuman. But apart from issuing a few muted statements of condemnation, the rest of the world appears to cower under U.S. pressure by refraining from formulating a strategy to resolve the current crisis. The failure of the Rome conference to bring about a ceasefire has demonstrated just that. Even the United Nations is utterly helpless against the conniving will of the Bush regime.

As a permanent member of the Security Council, China is not forceful enough to present its vision for a lasting peace in the historically holy lands of the Middle East. It must press the United Nations to enforce an immediate ceasefire and to negotiate the immediate exchange of prisoners in addition to urging all concerned to come to the negotiating table once again to make a clean breast of things. For its part, the Middle East must also heed China's calls for a comprehensive peace which will have to include an acknowledgment of Israel's right to exist. Is the Middle East ready for this undertaking? Will it listen to China?

As an emerging super power with growing strategic interests in the region, China can do very much more—and indeed it must—for the sake of peace, humanity and goodwill for all.









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