Up to six Chinese warships have been operating in West Asia over the past week, South China Morning Post reported on Thursday (Oct 19), citing reports. The naval presence was reported amid an escalating situation in West Asia due to the Israel-Hamas war. 

The Chinese Defence Ministry website said that the 44th Naval Escort Task Force has been involved in routine operations in the area since May. 

Last week, it spent several days on a visit to Oman, and it also took part in a joint exercise with the country’s navy. Chinese state media reported that the task force left the capital Muscat on Saturday, and was en route to an unspecified destination. 

The report mentioned that the task force is from the People’s Liberation Army Eastern Theatre, which includes the Zibo, a Type 052D guided-missile destroyer, and also the frigate Jingzhou. It also has the integrated supply ship Qiandaohu. 

The new convoy is led by the PLA’s Northern Theatre command and includes another Type 052 destroyer, the Urumqi, as well as the frigate Linyi and the supply ship Dongpinghu.

Notably, the US sent its most advanced carrier, the USS Gerald R Ford, and its battle group to the eastern Mediterranean amid the ongoing war. The Dwight D Eisenhower carrier strike group is also on its way to the region. 

The current status of these warships is not known. 

Xi On Israel-Hamas War 

This report coincided with Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s call for a ceasefire and humanitarian corridors for Gaza. His comment came in a meeting with Egyptian Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly on the sidelines of the Belt and Road Forum in Beijing. 

State media quoted Xi as telling Madbouly that China supports Egypt’s efforts to let in humanitarian aid to Gaza. 

The Chinese president’s words are among the first he has made regarding the conflict, which erupted on October 7 after Hamas launched an attack on Israel, sparking a huge military assault on Gaza.

Egypt and the US agreed on Wednesday to bring humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip “in a sustainable manner” through Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula. 

Separately, Xi also said China was willing to work with Egypt to strengthen cooperation in infrastructure, agricultural technology, and renewable energy, adding that he will also encourage capable Chinese enterprises to invest there. 

China to coordinate with Arab nations on Palestine

China’s President Xi Jinping said Thursday that Beijing will coordinate with Arab nations to seek a “lasting solution” to the Palestinian question as he pressed a two-state solution.

“China will coordinate more with Egypt and other Arab countries to work for a comprehensive, just and lasting solution to the Palestinian question,” Xi told Egyptian Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly on the sidelines of a Belt and Road Forum which concluded Wednesday in Beijing.

They were the first direct comments by Xi since the conflict between Israel and Palestine began Oct. 7.

“The top priority is to stop the fighting as soon as possible, prevent the conflict from spreading, or even getting out of control and causing a severe humanitarian crisis,” said Xi.

“The fundamental way out of the recurring Palestinian-Israeli conflict is to implement the two-state solution, establish an independent state of Palestine, and achieve peaceful coexistence between Palestine and Israel,” Xi said, according to a statement by Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying.

Xi lauded Egypt’s “vital role in deescalating the situation” and said it “supports its effort to open a humanitarian corridor.”

Beijing has called for a cease-fire and urged Tel Aviv to heed international law.

More than 5,100 people have died on both two sides — the most being Palestinians in the Gaza Strip since the latest escalation started.

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