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Chinese FM: China is Biggest Partner to 10 Middle Eastern Countries | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi. (AP)

Riyadh – Chinese Foreign Affairs Minister Wang Yi said that the visit of Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz to China was a positive message to the countries of the Middle East and the international community.

He added that such state visit would reflect Beijing and Riyadh’s keenness on promoting strategic cooperation and preserving regional peace.

In an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper, the Chinese minister said: “The visit of King Salman bin Abdulaziz to China will boost cooperation on development strategies and will deepen joint collaboration within the framework of the ‘Belt and Road’ initiative.”

The Belt and Road Initiative is a development strategy and framework, proposed by Chinese President Xi Jinping that focuses on connectivity and cooperation among countries, primarily between the People’s Republic of China and the rest of Eurasia.

Wang Yi hailed Saudi Arabia’s pivotal role in preserving peace and stability in the region, noting that the Middle East occupied an important position on the Chinese diplomatic map, as China represents the biggest commercial partner for ten Middle Eastern countries.

He disclosed that Xi Jinping would hold official talks with King Salman to “exchange viewpoints on bilateral relations and other issues of common interest.”

He also added that several cooperation agreements in the field of production capacity, commerce, space, renewable energy and education, would be signed on the sidelines of the King’s visit.

Asked to evaluate relations between Beijing and Riyadh, the foreign minister said: “Since the establishment of diplomatic ties in 1990, Chinese-Saudi relations witnessed a continuous and healthy evolution, and the two countries became strategic partners.”

He added that trade exchange between the Kingdom and China amounted to $42.36 billion in 2016, which led Saudi Arabia to become China’s biggest commercial partner among countries of Africa and Western Asia. The minister also highlighted the importance of cultural and humanitarian relations between the two countries.

Wang Yi said King Salman is the first Saudi King to visit China in 11 years.

He added that his visit comes in response to the state visit conducted by Xi Jinping to the Kingdom in January 2016.

Asked about Saudi-Chinese cooperation in the Belt and Road Initiative, the foreign minister said that the Saudi leadership warmly welcomed the Chinese president’s initiative. He stated that a joint cooperation agreement was signed between the two countries to boost cooperation in this regard.

The minister added that the Chinese initiative was aimed at building a trade and infrastructure network connecting Asia with Europe and Africa along the ancient Silk Road trade routes.

Both Saudi Arabia and China have great potential, whether in infrastructure construction or in financial innovation, he noted.

On whether the two countries share a common vision of the situation in the region, Wang Yi said that Saudi Arabia was assuming a vital role in the Arab and Islamic region, and was an important source of energy to the world.

The Kingdom also “positively contributes to maintaining and consolidating peace, stability and development in the region,” according to the minister.

He added that both countries were calling on the international community to unify efforts to fight terrorism and reject the double standard in world politics.

“China is not seeking to impose its influence in the Middle East and is not lined with any party,” the foreign minister said.

“On the contrary, our country calls for achieving equal development on the basis of mutual interests,” he continued.

Asked about the situation in Syria, Wang Yi stressed the need to implement UN Security Council Resolution 2254 and to establish a comprehensive solution that would include a permanent ceasefire, access to humanitarian aid, fighting terrorism and reconstruction.

On a different note, the foreign minister said that since the election of US President Donald Trump in November, relations between the US and China have witnessed some improvement.

He added that both countries’ leaders have agreed on the need to develop bilateral relations.