France: France’s top diplomat in Beijing for talks on Middle East newsbhunt

BEIJING: France‘s top diplomat Catherine Colonna met Chinese premier Li Qiang and foreign minister Wang Yi in Beijing on Friday, as part of a short visit focused on the Israel-Hamas war as well as deepening exchanges between the two countries.
Colonna’s talks in Beijing come the same day that a truce between Israel and Hamas took effect, with the militant group set to release a first group of 13 hostages later Friday, and a total of 50 over four days.
“For us, all the hostages must be released. All, and not just 50,” Colonna said during a briefing with French journalists.
Around 240 people were abducted during Hamas’s cross-border attacks on Israel last month.
Paris has said that the conflict in the Middle East will be high on the agenda for Colonna and her Chinese counterparts.
“China is an actor with growing weight in the region” due to its “strong relationship” with Iran, a French diplomatic source said this week.
“The first thing we expect from China in this conflict is to join its efforts with ours to ensure that we avoid any regional escalation,” they added.
Beijing has this year sought to play a greater role in the Middle East, facilitating a historic rapprochement between Saudi Arabia and Iran, and sending an envoy to the region to push for a ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas conflict.
Received Friday morning by Premier Li under the chandeliers of Beijing’s Great Hall of the People, Colonna said China and France shared “global responsibilities” as permanent members of the Security Council.
The two must “strive to find answers to major challenges, in particular the challenges of climate, biodiversity and anything that can ease tensions in the world”, she said.
Li, in turn, noted a “positive trend of Sino-French cooperation on all fronts”.
“This close cooperation between China and France has also injected a lot of positive energy and provided more certainty to the uncertain world today,” he added.
Colonna then met her counterpart Wang at Peking University in the afternoon, restarting a high-level China-France dialogue on other areas of cooperation.
Put on hold during the pandemic, the series of talks, which began in 2014, concerns subjects like academic, scientific, cultural and sporting exchanges, as well as issues linked to tourism and questions of gender equality.
Colonna will soon hold formal bilateral talks with Wang, before a joint press conference in the evening.
France and China will sign a series of agreements in areas such as education, culture, university exchanges and health, Paris has said.
And Beijing announced Friday that French citizens would be among a number of countries granted visa-free entry to China for up to 15 days.
Citizens of Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, and Malaysia will also be included in the scheme, which begins on December 1.

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