Call for calm in Middle East

The nation is “deeply concerned” about escalating tensions in the Middle East after Iran launched drones and missiles in a retaliatory strike against Israel, a foreign ministry spokesperson said.

Iran’s strikes marked its first direct attack on Israeli territory, raising the threat of a wider conflict in the region where China has sought to play a role as a mediator and from where it sources a growing proportion of its energy imports.

“China calls on relevant parties to remain calm and exercise restraint to avoid further escalation of tensions,” the spokesperson said in a statement yesterday in the form of a response to a question from unidentified reporters about the Iranian attacks.

The statement was posted on the ministry’s website.

“China calls on the international community, especially influential countries, to play a constructive role in maintaining regional peace and stability,” the spokesperson, who was also not identified, said in the statement.

The war between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip, now in its seventh month, has ratcheted up regional tensions, spreading to fronts with Lebanon and Syria and drawing long-range fire from Yemen and Iraq at Israeli targets.

The Chinese foreign ministry’s spokesperson said this round of tensions was a “spillover from the Gaza conflict”, adding that quelling it as soon as possible was “a top priority”.

China mediated between Iran and Saudi Arabia last year, and it was reported that China had asked Iran to help rein in attacks on ships in the Red Sea by the Iran-backed Houthis, or risk harming business relations with Beijing.

Earlier yesterday, the Chinese embassy in Iran advised Chinese nationals and companies in the country to strengthen security precautions, according to state television CCTV.

China Southern Airlines cancelled a flight to Iran yesterday and Hainan Airlines is saying they are monitoring the situation closely and is evaluating whether an upcoming flight to Israel can fly normally, according to Chinese business outlet Yicai.

China Southern had a direct flight from Urumqi in China’s Xinjiang region to Teheran yesterday and Hainan Airlines has a direct flight from the southern city of Shenzhen to Tel Aviv scheduled on Tuesday, according to flight tracking app Flight Master. — Reuters

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