Israel’s Netanyahu in Talks to Meet Xi in China, Report Says

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(Bloomberg) -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu plans to meet President Xi Jinping in China for the first time in six years, according to the Times of Israel.

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The two nations have held discussions in recent days about the planned trip next month, the newspaper reported, citing people in Israel it didn’t identify. The visit would be intended to send a signal to Washington that Israel has other options when conducting diplomacy, the people said.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning said Tuesday at a regular press briefing in Beijing that she didn’t have information to offer about a potential visit. The Israeli embassy in Beijing didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

See: Saudis Look to China for Business as US Influence Wanes

China has been expanding its influence in the Middle East, which has become less of a diplomatic priority for the US in recent years. Earlier this month, during Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s visit to Beijing, Xi proposed an international peace conference on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The Chinese leader also said he was was willing to “play an active role” in facilitating peace talks over the Palestinian issue, which have been stalled since 2014, with no obvious political horizon for ending it.

In March, China helped broker a tentative detente between Iran and Saudi Arabia after years of diplomatic deadlock between the rivals. The deal marked a departure from Beijing’s long-stated reluctance to involve itself in foreign disputes.

--With assistance from Xiao Zibang and Kari Lindberg.

(Updates with response from China’s Foreign Ministry.)

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