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Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi visited Jerusalem on Wednesday, expressing ‘strong support’ for an Israeli-Palestinian peace settlement based on a two-state solution.

After talks with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank town of Ramallah, Mr Yang said: ‘We wish the creation of an independent Palestinian state in the near future because this will consolidate security and stability in the region.’ He added that a two-state settlement was ‘the only solution possible.’

Mr Yang also met Israeli diplomats, who urged him to press Iran to halt its civilian nuclear programme.

Tel Aviv is increasingly concerned by the growing economic ties between Beijing and Tehran, which Israeli officials claim has provided Gaza’s Hamas administration with weaponry.

Trade between China and Iran now stands at around £17 billion a year and China’s rapidly expanding economy has been fuelled in part by Iranian oil, which represents about 13 per cent of the country’s oil imports.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman called on Mr Yang to support more aggressive sanctions on Iran, but Israeli analysts said that the pressure is unlikely to change Beijing’s stance.

University of Haifa Department of Asian Studies’ Professor Yitzhak Shichor argued that China is hesitant to put further pressure on Iran because Tehran is a key piece in the ‘global chess game’ that Beijing is playing with Washington.

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