China greets Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu in Beijing amid drive for Middle East influence

Chinese leaders have welcomed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Beijing as China tries to bring its growing international influence to an area where it has had little impact — the Middle East peace process.

Greeting the Israeli leader at the Great Hall of the People on Wednesday, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang made no mention of his meeting two days earlier with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who leads his people's efforts to achieve statehood.

Talks between Israel and the Palestinians have been deadlocked for four years.

The near simultaneous visits of Abbas and Netanyahu underscore China's desire to play a greater role in the Middle East, a region Beijing has long seen as a key source of energy.