JANUARY 8 2009 10:28h
China`s special envoy on Middle Eastern affairs, Sun Bigan, said there was no sign of an end to the fighting.
China's special envoy on Middle Eastern affairs, Sun Bigan, said there was no sign of an end to the fighting and "continued warfare is dragging Gaza into a humanitarian crisis," the official Xinhua News Agency reported.
Beijing has relatively little sway in the Middle East and has often confined its comments on the Israel-Palestinian dispute to general calls for goodwill.
The more direct statements from envoy Sun and from the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang suggest that Beijing is increasingly worried about the confrontation between Israeli and Palestinian forces under Hamas.
"Above all, and most pressing, is that there be an immediate ceasefire and easing of the humanitarian crisis," Sun said, according to Xinhua.
"Israel should immediately halt military operations in Gaza, and Hamas should immediately halt launching missiles into Israel. Only if both sides stop will the situation cease deteriorating."
Sun and spokesman Qin also gave China's backing to an Egyptian ceasefire proposal. Egypt's plan "should be treated seriously by the international community," Qin told a regular news conference in Beijing.
"The international community should step up mediation efforts," said Qin.
Sun told Xinhua that a ceasefire should be followed by an influx of aid to help Gaza residents short on food and medicine.
He also urged a swift revival of Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations.
"Armed force can only produce more enmity and bitterness and cannot possibly bring any side absolute security," he said.