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China, for First Time, Shows Interest in UN Peacekeeping Operations in Mideast

Three Chinese officials have recently visited the United Nations peacekeeping operations in Syria and Egypt, a UN spokesman said Tuesday.

It was the first such visit by the Peoples Republic of China, which has refused to take part in any UN peacekeeping operations since it was admitted to the UN in 1971.

According to the spokesman, China decided to make the inspection tour of the UN Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO) in Syria and Egypt, “for information purposes” since China is one of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council. The others are the United States, the Soviet Union, Britain and France.

Diplomats at the UN, however, said privately Tuesday that the Chinese move can be seen as an indication that China is considering a change in its policy regarding UN peacekeeping forces. The diplomats noted that China, which refused so far to participate in Security Council votes on UN peacekeeping operations, joined at the beginning of this month in a unanimous vote to extend the mandate of the UN peacekeeping force in Cyprus.

The UNTSO force in the Mideast includes 298 observers. In addition to Syria and Egypt, UNTSO observers are also stationed in south Lebanon. UNTSO was the first UN force in the Mideast, sent there in 1948 during Israel’s war for independence.

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