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News analysis: Why is Chinese President Xi Jinping going to Russia?

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At the invitation of his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, President Xi Jinping will pay a state visit to Russia from March 20-22, the Chinese Foreign Ministry has announced.

This will be Xi Jinping’s first trip overseas since being elected president of China for a third term earlier this month.

The visit is set to map out the blueprint for developing the China-Russia comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination for a new era, Wang Wenbin, spokesperson for the ministry, told media at a regular press briefing in Beijing on Friday, minutes after the announcement.

President Xi’s visit will be a trip of friendship, cooperation and peace, said Wang.

Analysts say China has been developing its relations with Russia on the basis of no alliance, no confrontation and no targeting of any third party, and they criticize Washington’s Cold War mentality in framing the ties.

China and Russia: Friendship of integrity, openness

Now Xi is about to set foot on Russian soil for the ninth time as Chinese president. Notably, Russia was also the destination of his first state visit after becoming president for the first time in 2013.

On his last visit to Russia in 2019, the two countries celebrated the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations. In 2021, the two presidents commemorated the 20th anniversary of the Treaty of Good-Neighborliness and Friendly Cooperation Between China and Russia and decided to extend the pact.

Over the past 10 years, China and Russia cooperated actively under the guidance of the two heads of state, Yuri Tavrovsky, a professor of the Russian University of Peoples’ Friendship, told Xinhua. Tavrovsky said he expects the leaders of the two countries will open up more new areas for bilateral cooperation in the future.

In a recent interview, Chinese Ambassador to Russia Zhang Hanhui hailed the state of China-Russia economic and trade cooperation. In 2022, the bilateral trade hit a record high of $190.27 billion, up 120 percent compared with 10 years ago, said Zhang.

The proportion of settlements in local currencies continued to grow, with Russian banks extensively carrying out transactions in the RMB currency, said the ambassador.

“It is clear that the China-Russia contact is not the alleged alliance between a big brother and a little one,” said an international affairs commentator who goes by the pen name Chaoyang Shaoxia in a social media post.

“Instead, it is a friendship of integrity and openness that seeks win-win outcome between gentlemen.”

Regarding Xi’s visit next week, the commentator said it is only natural for leaders of the two neighbors to maintain regular contact and visits, “with or without the Ukraine crisis.”

Other countries cannot dictate the way China and Russia develop their relations, he said.

No targeting of any third party

In recent years, the United States has ramped up its efforts to contain China and Russia. Since the outbreak of the Ukraine crisis, Washington has tried to weaken Russia when it urges Kyiv to “fight until the very last Ukrainian.” Meanwhile, it is promoting an “Indo-Pacific version of NATO,” an alliance system to tighten the siege of China.

In doing so, Washington wants to instigate a new Cold War where the U.S. and Europe would be fighting against China and Russia, said an analyst for Chaoyang Shaoxia.

“However, when the U.S. looks at China-Russia relations through the filter of the Cold War mentality and zero-sum game, it only sees the reflection of its own image,” he said.

He added that Washington’s containment of the two countries has backfired since it only produces an increasingly close “back-to-back” collaborative relationship between Beijing and Moscow.

The analyst warned that closeness might make the U.S. more anxious and insecure since Washington has long seen an alliance between China and Russia, and possibly Iran, as the greatest potential threat to its national security.

China has long made clear that its relations with Russia don’t target any third country and urged no Cold War mentality in international relations.

The way China and Russia develop their strategic partnership of coordination will benefit the two peoples and the world at large, reiterated the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson when briefing the media about Xi’s trip to the country.

“It is entirely different from what certain countries have been doing, including holding on to the Cold War mentality, ganging up with other countries, putting up cliques and stoking bloc confrontation and engaging in hegemonic, domineering and bullying practices,” said Wang Wenbin.

No blame game on Ukraine

The visit of the Chinese leader to Russia comes amid intensifying geopolitical tensions worldwide, the escalating Ukraine crisis in particular.

At Friday’s press briefing, Wang underscored that Xi’s visit will be a trip for peace. China will uphold an objective and fair position on the Ukraine crisis and play a constructive role in promoting talks for peace, he said.

During a phone call with Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Qin Gang on Thursday, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba briefed Qin on the conflict’s latest developments and the prospect of peace talks.

Kuleba said China’s position paper on the political settlement of the crisis shows its sincerity in promoting a ceasefire and an end to the conflict, and expressed the hope to maintain communication with China.

“We have reasons to believe that during the visit [by President Xi] to Russia, China will, as always, speak out for peace and do its best for peace,” said Chaoyang Shaoxia.

Though neither a maker nor a party to the Ukraine crisis, China has repeatedly made headlines in the U.S. media because of the crisis. A recent example is when U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan claimed without evidence that “China is considering providing lethal weapons to Russia” and threatened “real costs” for Beijing “if it goes down that road.”

When some in the U.S. trumpet that China should not support “Russia’s aggression” and Beijing must play a role in “persuading Russia to stop the war,” what they really mean is to shift the blame and hold China accountable for the prolonged conflict, said Chaoyang Shaoxia.

However, it is the United States that does not want the Ukraine crisis to cool down, he said, adding that the key to solving the crisis is not in the hands of China but in those of the U.S. and the West.

If they really want China to play a constructive role, the U.S. and the West should support China’s efforts and work together with it, he said.

“[They should] stop manipulating behind the scenes, pouring oil on the fire, diverting conflicts [and] smearing China with false accusations or even threatening it with sanctions.”

Source(s): CGTN

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Israel under heat after over 100 were killed while seeking aid in Gaza

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Israel has drawn heat from the international community after more than 100 people were killed as they waited for an aid delivery in the Gaza Strip on Thursday, an incident that Palestinian health authorities blamed on Israeli forces but was attributed by Israel to crowds that surrounded the air trucks.

Shots were fired as hundreds of people gathered around an aid convoy coordinated by Israel to send relief to the Palestinians in Gaza, who are undergoing a humanitarian disaster owning to Israel’s months-old bombardment of the coastal enclave since Hamas’ deadly rampage in southern Israel on October 7.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said it was an “ugly massacre” by Israel, and France condemned “unjustifiable Israeli fire” in the scramble for food aid.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’s office also issued a statement denouncing the incident, without assigning blame.

At least 112 people were killed and more than 280 wounded in the incident near Gaza City, Palestinian health officials said.

Israel said it was not to blame for the “unfortunate” event. One Israeli official said there had been two incidents, hundreds of meters apart. In the first, dozens were killed or injured as they tried to take aid from the trucks and were trampled or run over, according to the official.

He said there was a second, subsequent incident as the trucks moved off. Some people in the crowd approached troops who felt under threat and opened fire, killing an unknown number in a “limited response,” he said. He dismissed the casualty toll given by Gaza authorities but gave no figure himself.

In a rebuttal to the Israeli account, Hamas said the Gaza health ministry had presented “undeniable” evidence of “direct firing at citizens, including headshots aimed at immediate killing, in addition to the testimonies of all witnesses who confirmed being targeted with direct fire without posing any threat to the occupying army.”

Jordan’s foreign ministry, in a statement following the incident, reiterated its condemnation of Israel’s persistent aggression and said its brutal targeting of civilians was a blatant violation of international law.

The Turkish foreign ministry said “Israel has added another crime to its crimes against humanity.”

Hamas said the incident could jeopardize talks in Qatar aimed at securing a ceasefire and the release of Israeli hostages it is holding. When asked if he thought it would complicate the talks, U.S. President Joe Biden said: “I know it will.”

The U.S. State Department said it was urgently seeking information on the incident, as did the French foreign ministry.

The incident has added more strains to health facilities that are already on the brink of collapse in Gaza. Medics said they could not cope with the flood of serious injuries, which came as the death toll in nearly five months of war passed 30,000, according to Palestinian health authorities.

In a statement on Thursday, UN human rights chief Volker Turk said war crimes had been committed by all parties in the conflict between Israel and Hamas, calling for them to be investigated and for those responsible to be held accountable.

Source(s): CGTN

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Gaza death toll nears 30,000 as truce talks underway

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Fighting raged on Wednesday in the besieged Gaza Strip, where the reported death toll neared 30,000 as mediators insisted a truce in the Israel-Hamas conflict could be just days away.

The Hamas-ruled territory’s Health Ministry reported another 91 deaths in overnight Israeli bombardment in Gaza, bringing the total death toll to at least 29,954, mostly women and children.

Meanwhile, UN agencies sounded the alarm on dire humanitarian conditions and food shortages.

On Tuesday, the UN humanitarian agency – the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) – said a quarter of people in Gaza were one step away from famine, warning that such a disaster would be “almost inevitable” without action.

Aid supplies

The OCHA told the UN Security Council on Tuesday that relief agencies face “overwhelming obstacles” including restrictions on movement, crossing closures, access denials and onerous vetting procedures, though Israel said there is no limit to the amount of humanitarian aid for civilians in Gaza.

Rare aid deliveries into northern Gaza have been chaotic, with convoys of trucks often mobbed by desperate people as they arrive.

Most aid trucks have been halted, but foreign militaries have air dropped supplies over southern Gaza.

Some 160 packages of food and medical equipment have been airdropped into the southern Gaza Strip and the Jordanian field hospital in Khan Younis, Gaza.

The U.S. is considering airdropping aid from U.S. military planes into Gaza as land deliveries become increasingly difficult, a U.S. official said on Wednesday.

Truce talk underway

Mediators from Egypt, Qatar and the U.S. have been trying to find a path to a ceasefire amid the bitter fighting, seeking a six-week pause in the nearly five-month conflict.

After a flurry of diplomacy, mediators said a deal could finally be within reach – reportedly including the release of some Israeli hostages held in Gaza since Hamas’ October 7 attack in exchange for several hundred Palestinian detainees held by Israel.

Hamas had been pushing for the complete withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza – a demand rejected outright by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

But a Hamas source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that the deal might see the Israeli military leave “cities and populated areas,” allowing the return of some displaced Palestinians and humanitarian relief.

Doha has suggested the pause in fighting would come before the beginning of Ramadan, the Muslim fasting month which starts on March 10 or 11, depending on the lunar calendar.

Hamas called on Wednesday for Palestinians to march to Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque at the start of Ramadan, raising the stakes in ongoing negotiations for a truce in Gaza.

Al-Aqsa in Jerusalem’s old city, one of the world’s holiest sites for Muslims and the most sacred for Jews, has long been a flashpoint for potential violence, particularly during religious holidays.

With fighting raging in Gaza, Israel has said it may set limits to worship at Al-Aqsa during Ramadan, according to its security needs. Many Palestinians reject any such restrictions on their access to the site.

“This is a call on our people in Jerusalem and the West Bank to march to Al-Aqsa since the first day of Ramadan,” said Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh.

Israeli government spokesperson Tal Heirich described Haniyeh’s remarks as “very unfortunate” and accused him of trying to drag both Israel and Hamas to conflicts on other fronts.

Source(s): CGTN

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One quarter of Gazans one step away from famine amid uncertain truce talks

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At least 576,000 people in the Gaza Strip – one quarter of the population – are one step away from famine, a senior UN aid official told the Security Council on Tuesday, warning that widespread famine could be “almost inevitable” without action.

“Very little will be possible while hostilities continue and while there is a risk that they will spread into the overcrowded areas in the south of Gaza. We therefore reiterate our call for a ceasefire,” said Ramesh Rajasingham, coordination director of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

One in six children under age 2 in northern Gaza suffers from acute malnutrition and practically all the 2.3 million people in the Palestinian enclave rely on “woefully inadequate” food aid to survive, he told the Security Council.

Rajasingham said the UN and aid groups face “overwhelming obstacles just to get a bare minimum of supplies into Gaza.” These include crossing closures, restrictions on movement and communication, onerous vetting procedures, unrest, damaged roads and unexploded ordnance, he said.

Jens Laerke, spokesman for OCHA, also said on Tuesday that Israeli forces are “systematically” blocking access to Gaza.

All planned aid convoys into the north have been denied by Israeli authorities in recent weeks. The last allowed in was on January 23, according to the World Health Organization.

However, Israeli deputy ambassador to the UN Jonathan Miller countered that “it is not Israel who is holding up these trucks,” instead placing the blame on the UN, which he said must distribute aid “more effectively.”

“There is no limit to the amount of humanitarian aid that can be sent to the civilian population of Gaza,” he said, adding that since the beginning of 2024 Israel had only denied 16 percent of requests to deliver aid, and those were due to risks the shipments could end up in Hamas’ hands.

Cautious over truce talks

Israel and Hamas as well as Qatari mediators all sounded notes of caution on Tuesday about progress towards a truce in Gaza, after U.S. President Joe Biden said he believed a ceasefire could be reached in under a week to halt the conflict for Ramadan.

Two senior Hamas officials told Reuters that Biden’s remarks seemed premature. There are “still big gaps to be bridged,” one of them said.

Hamas is weighing a proposal, agreed by Israel at talks with mediators in Paris last week, for a 40-day ceasefire, which would be the first extended truce of the five-month-old conflict. Both sides have delegations in Qatar this week hammering out details.

According to a source close to the ceasefire talks, the Paris proposal would see militants free some but not all of the hostages in return for Israel’s release of hundreds of Palestinian detainees, a surge in humanitarian aid for Gaza and Israeli troops pulling out of populated areas in the enclave.

But it appears to stop short of satisfying Hamas’ main demand that any agreement include a clear path towards a permanent end to the war and Israeli withdrawal, or resolving the fate of fighting-age Israeli men among the hostages.

Earlier, Israeli government spokesperson Tal Heinrich said any deal for a ceasefire in Gaza would still require Hamas to drop “outlandish demands.” She added: “We are willing. But the question remains whether Hamas are willing.”

Qatar, which has acted as the main mediator, said a breakthrough had yet to be reached.

“We don’t have a final agreement on any of the issues that are hampering reaching an agreement,” said Majed Al Ansari, spokesperson for Qatar’s foreign ministry. “We remain hopeful that we can get to some kind of agreement.”

Hamas fighters killed 1,200 people and captured 253 hostages on October 7, according to Israeli tallies, triggering Israel’s ground assault on Gaza. Health authorities in the enclave say nearly 30,000 people have been confirmed killed.

Source(s): CGTN

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