The world must “must act urgently” to stem the conflict in Gaza, China’s top diplomat said Monday during a meeting with officials from Arab and Muslim majority nations, as Beijing steps up its efforts to play a role in establishing a ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas conflict.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi welcomed counterparts from Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, the Palestinian National Authority, and Indonesia, as well as the head of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation for a two-day visit to the Chinese capital, the start of the delegation’s expected tour of several world capitals.

“The international community must act urgently, taking effective measures to prevent this tragedy from spreading. China firmly stands with justice and fairness in this conflict,” Wang told the visiting leaders in opening remarks ahead of talks, where he reiterated China’s call for an immediate ceasefire.

Visiting ministers voiced their own strong calls for an end to the conflict, with Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud saying: “The message is clear: the war must stop immediately, we must move to a ceasefire immediately, and relief materials and aid must enter immediately.”

Countries represented in the delegation hoped to cooperate with China and “all countries” that are “responsible and appreciate the seriousness of the situation,” he said.

Israel has launched weeks of bombardment and ground operations in the Hamas-ruled enclave of Gaza following a deadly attack on its territory by the group on October 7. More than 200 hostages were taken in that attack, according to the Israel Defense Forces.

The gathering in Beijing comes as sources tell CNN that a possible deal to secure the release of some hostages held by Hamas and a several days pause in fighting may be in sight, following weeks of negotiations between the United States, Israel and the militant group, mediated by Gulf state Qatar.

Beijing has been at odds with Washington – an Israeli ally and long a major power broker in the region – over their approach to the conflict, including when it comes to an immediate ceasefire, which Washington does not support. Beijing has also criticized Israel’s retaliation and failed to condemn Hamas or name the group in its statements, sparking backlash from Israeli officials.

“Israel should stop its collective punishment on the people of Gaza, and open up a humanitarian corridor as soon as possible to prevent a humanitarian crisis of a larger scale from taking place,” Wang was cited as telling the delegation during the talks, according to a readout from China’s Foreign Ministry.

Israel has staunchly defended its actions as rooting out terrorism following a “barbaric invasion” and has rejected any ceasefire without the return of hostages.

China’s push for peace

China has been attempting to play an active role in finding a solution to the conflict as it seeks to expand its position as a major global power.

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