France’s top diplomat, Catherine Colonna, commenced a brief visit in Beijing on Friday, engaging with Chinese Premier Li Qiang. The visit primarily centers on discussions regarding the ongoing Israeli-Hamas war, and aims to foster deeper academic and cultural exchanges between France and China.
Colonna’s talks in Beijing come the same day that a truce between Israel and Hamas took effect, with the armed group set to release a first group of 13 hostages later Friday.
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 the People’s Palace in the heart of Beijing, 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 co-operation 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, along with counterpart Wang Yi, will also restart a high-level China-France dialogue on other areas of cooperation at Peking University on Friday afternoon.
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 then hold formal bilateral talks with Wang, before a joint press conference in the evening.
France and China will also sign a series of agreements in areas such as education, culture, university exchanges and health, Paris has said.