A group of senators led by Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D.-N.Y., met with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing on Monday in a sign that Xi could hold a highly anticipated meeting with President Joe Biden this fall.
Xi told Schumer that the U.S. and China have the most important bilateral relationship in the world and that their common interests outweigh their differences, state media reported. His comments came even as the outbreak of war between Israel and Hamas threatens to further strain ties that are already at their lowest point in decades.
The bipartisan group of six senators, which is also traveling to U.S. allies South Korea and Japan, is the first congressional delegation to China since 2019. They met with Xi at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, according to the state-run broadcaster CCTV.
Schumer described Xi as “engaged” during the meeting, which he said lasted much longer than expected, at about 80 minutes.
During their meeting, Schumer said, he was “disappointed” by what he described as China’s lack of “sympathy” for Israel after a surprise attack by fighters from the Palestinian militant group Hamas, the deadliest incursion into Israeli territory in 50 years.
On Sunday, the Chinese Foreign Ministry urged “relevant parties” to immediately cease hostilities to protect civilians.
“The fundamental way out of the conflict lies in implementing the two-state solution and establishing an independent State of Palestine,” the ministry said in a statement that did not mention Hamas.
Speaking to Xi on Monday, Schumer described the events in Israel as “horrific.”
“I urge you and the Chinese people to stand with the Israeli people and condemn these cowardly and vicious attacks,” he said.
“I was very disappointed, to be honest, by the foreign ministry’s statement that showed no sympathy or support for Israel during these troubled times,” he added.
Schumer delivered the same statement earlier in the day to Foreign Minister Wang Yi, who was also at the meeting.
At a news conference afterward, Schumer said the senators asked China to use its influence on Iran, which former U.S. intelligence and military officers say most likely played a significant role in the Hamas assault, to not allow the conflict to spread in the broader region.
Israel also criticized China’s response, saying it expected a “stronger condemnation” of Hamas.
Asked about Schumer’s remarks Monday, the Chinese Foreign Affairs Ministry said it was “deeply saddened” by the civilian casualties and called for a cease-fire and negotiations while reiterating support for a two-state solution.
“China is a common friend of Israel and Palestine,” spokesperson Mao Ning said at a regular news briefing in Beijing. “We sincerely hope to see Palestine and Israel co-existing peacefully and sharing security and development.”
Source : NBC News