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China's First Special Envoy to Middle East
Since the Chinese Foreign Ministry declared Wang Shijie as the country's envoy to the Middle East on September 17, the first time in Chinese diplomatic history, Wang has attracted a great deal of attention both at home and abroad. Shanghai-based Wenhui Daily had an exclusive interview with Wang, discussing his appointment and associated tasks, before he left for the Middle East on November 5.

Reporter: This is the first in diplomatic history for China to send a special envoy to the Middle East. Could you brief us on the issues?

Wang: The Middle East has been the longest point of tension since the Second World War. During the past half century, four wars have broken out in the region between Israel and neighboring Arabic countries, seriously affecting stability and development in the region, causing great personal losses, material damage and mental strain to all people in the area. It is in the interests of all people and countries of the Middle East, to work toward world peace, stability and development by resolving conflicts in the area as early and quickly as possible. However, historically achieving peace in the Middle East has proved a long, arduous and complex process, requiring the wisdom and courage of politicians from relevant countries combined with the efforts of the international community.

As a permanent member of the UN Security Council, China shoulders the added responsibility of safeguarding world peace. We have always kept a close eye on developments in the Middle East, and actively sought to promote the peace process. China has won common praise from the international community because it has always taken a fair stance on this issue. In recent years, with China's increasingly comprehensive power and growing influence in world affairs, some Middle East countries have asked for China to play a bigger role in the region, and urged the Chinese government to send a special envoy. The fact that the Chinese government decided to appoint me as the special envoy to the Middle East shows China's concerns over the Middle East issue and its support for a Middle East peace process.

Reporter: When will you leave for the Middle East, and how often will you return to the region?

Wang: I will leave for the Middle East on November 5, paying visits to Israel, Palestine, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt and Jordan. During the engagement, I will meet with the heads of state and foreign ministers of each of these countries along with the secretary-general of the Arab League, to express China's stance on issues and exchange in-depth views on how to ease tensions and push forward with the peace process. I will also pass on a letter to them from Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan.

My office will be in the Chinese Foreign Ministry building. At this stage, I don't think I will have to go abroad all that often. I will keep in constant contact with all relevant parties and arrange my visits according to developing situations. I will only bring two assistants and one translator with me on this trip.

Reporter: What is your main objective? What connections will you make with other envoys from the United States, Russia and the European Union?

Wang: Guided by our government, I will have discussions and maintain close contacts with all parties in the Middle East as well as the international community to try and find the best way to resolve Middle East conflicts and make active contributions to the peace process. Currently the main objective is to compel Israel and Palestine to stop the bloodshed and return to the negotiating table as soon as possible.

For quite some time now, the international community has done a lot of work to find a solution to the Middle East problem. The United Nations, the United States, Russia and the European Union have all appointed special envoys to the Middle East. I would like to work together with these four parties to help find early resolutions to these issues.

Reporter: In your opinion, what is the most effective way to achieve peace in the Middle East?

Wang: I think in the current environment political negotiations will be the most appropriate and effective means available. History in the Middle East has proved that resorting to war or threatening each other with force does not achieve anything, but instead leads to setbacks and even serious retrogressions. There is a famous Chinese saying: Nothing is more precious than peace. The Middle East conflict is no exception. So China will continue to insist on pushing forward with the peace process based on the relevant UN resolutions and the principle of "land for peace." China supports the countries concerned in pursuing peaceful strategies that will appeal to both Israel and Palestine and implore them to obey the spirit of peace instead of force, cooperation instead of confrontation, tolerance instead of rejection, and to assist with the promotion of peace in the international community to erase tensions and create favorable conditions for the resumption of negotiations.

Reporter: What kind of role will China play in the Middle East?

Wang: China has always shown great concern over the Middle East, and has always supported and constructively participated in every international effort to help achieve peace there. China maintains regular contact with both Israel and Palestine, taking advantages of both channels, and works hard to persuade both sides to return to the negotiating table. At the same time, China keeps intensive consultations with the United States, Russia and the European Union. In addition, China has tried every means in the United Nations and on some other occasions to push forward the peace process.

Reporter: According to your assessments, what is the biggest issue to deal with first, and which politician will you seek to meet with first?

Wang: There is a lot of work waiting for me. Recently I talked with diplomats from both Arabic countries and Israel in Beijing, getting to know their opinions, and listening to their suggestions. I feel our government decisions are so wise and were warmly welcomed by Israel and Palestine as well as the international community. I am going to visit the six countries in the Middle East. This is my first mission. I hope I can exchange in-depth views with all parties concerned and establish strong connections with all of them.

There are many important and influential politicians in the Middle East, who have not only talent to govern a country, but also unique views on regional and global issues. Therefore I am looking forward to meeting with all of them.

(china.org.cn by Zheng Guihong November 8, 2002)

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