China’s Xi Calls on West to Lift Sanctions against War-Ravaged Syria

Chinese President Xi Jinping meets with Syria's President Bashar al-Assad in eastern Hangzhou city, in this handout picture released by Sana on September 22, 2023, Syria. SANA/Handout via REUTERS
Chinese President Xi Jinping meets with Syria's President Bashar al-Assad in eastern Hangzhou city, in this handout picture released by Sana on September 22, 2023, Syria. SANA/Handout via REUTERS
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China’s Xi Calls on West to Lift Sanctions against War-Ravaged Syria

Chinese President Xi Jinping meets with Syria's President Bashar al-Assad in eastern Hangzhou city, in this handout picture released by Sana on September 22, 2023, Syria. SANA/Handout via REUTERS
Chinese President Xi Jinping meets with Syria's President Bashar al-Assad in eastern Hangzhou city, in this handout picture released by Sana on September 22, 2023, Syria. SANA/Handout via REUTERS

China's President Xi Jinping called on the West to lift sanctions on Syria and offered Beijing's help in rebuilding the war-shattered country on Friday during rare talks with Syria's long ostracized leader Bashar al-Assad.

Their meeting in the Chinese city of Hangzhou gave a boost to Assad's campaign to return to the global stage while allowing China to advance its strategic interests in the Middle East.

"China opposes interference by external forces in Syria's internal affairs... and urges all relevant countries to lift illegal unilateral sanctions against Syria," said a readout of the talks published by Chinese state media.

Xi also told Assad that China would help Syria to rebuild its ruined economy and counter domestic unrest, by upgrading ties to a "strategic partnership".

Xi's endorsement should strengthen Assad's efforts to plot a path back from what is effectively pariah status. Syria joined China's Belt and Road Initiative in 2022 and was welcomed back into the Arab League in May.

In Chinese diplomacy, a "strategic partnership" implies closer coordination on regional and international affairs, including in the military sphere. It is one grade below what Beijing calls a "comprehensive strategic partnership".

Western sanctions on Syria have been steadily tightened since the early days of a civil war that began in 2011 with a crackdown on protests and went on to kill hundreds of thousands of people and displace millions.

Assad's government, backed by Russia and Iran, now controls most Syrian territory and has re-established ties in recent years with Arab neighbors.

Sanctions deterrent

Syria desperately needs foreign investment for its infrastructure and industry. Its dire economic situation has triggered protests in southern Syria in which crowds have called for the president's removal.

However, analysts doubt that Chinese firms will rush back to Syria as they would risk becoming entangled in US sanctions under the 2020 Caesar Act that can freeze the assets of anyone dealing with the country.

Chinese investors will also have to consider Syria's poor security and parlous financial situation.

Beijing has stepped up its diplomatic engagement with the Middle East in recent years, and in March helped broker a surprise deal between long-standing regional rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran to end their seven-year diplomatic rift.

Citing flagship initiatives aimed at building up infrastructure along the ancient Silk Road and promoting China's approach to global security, Xi extended support for Syrian efforts to improve relations with other Arab countries. 



Israel Carries Out New Raids in Gaza as Netanyahu Visits US 

This picture taken in Khan Younis shows smoke billowing during Israeli military operations in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, on July 24, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas. (AFP)
This picture taken in Khan Younis shows smoke billowing during Israeli military operations in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, on July 24, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas. (AFP)
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Israel Carries Out New Raids in Gaza as Netanyahu Visits US 

This picture taken in Khan Younis shows smoke billowing during Israeli military operations in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, on July 24, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas. (AFP)
This picture taken in Khan Younis shows smoke billowing during Israeli military operations in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, on July 24, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas. (AFP)

Israeli forces carried out new raids in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday, hours before Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was due to address the US Congress.

The latest Israeli attacks destroyed homes in towns east of Khan Younis in southern Gaza and thousands of people were forced to head west to seek shelter, residents said.

The Palestinian Civil Emergency Service said it had received distress calls from residents trapped in their homes in Bani Suhaila, east of Khan Younis, but were unable to reach the town.

Israel's military, which is trying to eradicate the armed group Hamas after the Oct. 7 attack on Israel, said it had been operating in areas from which fighters had been able to fire rockets into Israel and attack Israeli troops.

Gaza health officials said Israeli military strikes in the past 24 hours had killed at least 55 people, the latest casualties in a war that health authorities in the enclave say has killed more than 39,000 Palestinians.

"Where should we go? Shall we cross into the sea?" said Ghada, who has been displaced with her family six times during the war, said from Hamas City in northwestern Khan Younis.

"We are exhausted, starved, and want the war to end now, now not an hour later. Every day means more families are wiped off the registration book," she told Reuters via a chat app.

Local residents said they had been ordered to head west towards a designated humanitarian area, but that the area was now unsafe.

Israeli forces also carried out airstrikes on several areas of central and northern Gaza Strip, killing and wounding several Palestinians, health officials said.

Residents of Rafah, near the border with Egypt, said Israeli forces had blown up several houses in the west of the city.

PALESTINIANS CRITICISE U.S.

Hamas-led fighters triggered the war on Oct. 7 by storming into southern Israel, killing 1,200 people and taking 250 captives, according to Israeli tallies. Some 120 hostages are still being held though Israel believes one in three are dead.

Some Palestinians who gathered at a hospital in Khan Younis before funerals criticized the United States, Israel's most important international ally, for welcoming Netanyahu.

The Israel leader was due to address Congress later on Wednesday and to meet President Joe Biden at the White House on Thursday. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump said he would meet Netanyahu in Florida on Friday.

"The United States is a main partner in what is happening in Gaza. We are being killed because of the United States. We are being slaughtered by American planes, American ships, American tanks, and American troops," said Kazem Abu Taha, a displaced resident from Rafah.

A senior Hamas official, Sami Abu Zuhri, told Reuters: "The Congress invitation to Netanyahu to make a speech gives legitimacy to the crimes of the war of genocide in Gaza. Receiving a war criminal is a shame to all Americans."

Israel has rejected accusations brought by South Africa at the UN's top court that its military operation in Gaza is a state-led genocide campaign against Palestinians. It has reacted angrily to a decision by the International Criminal Court's prosecutor to seek an arrest warrant against Netanyahu.

Netanyahu said this week a deal to release Israelis held captive in Gaza could be near. But Hamas officials said Netanyahu was stalling and that they had not seen any change in the Israeli stance that would allow an agreement to be reached.

Hamas wants a ceasefire agreement to end the war in Gaza. Netanyahu says the war cannot end before Hamas is eradicated.