Xi calls for closer ties with Saudi Ara­bia

Leader urges stronger co­op­er­a­tion in meet­ing with crown prince

China Daily (Canada) - - CHINA - By LI XIAOKUN lix­i­aokun@chi­nadaily.com.cn

China and Saudi Ara­bia — Bei­jing’s big­gest for­eign source of crude oil — promised on Thurs­day to forge a stronger re­la­tion­ship and ex­pand their co­op­er­a­tion be­yond the tra­di­tional field of en­ergy.

“We should keep en­ergy co­op­er­a­tion as a pil­lar and ex­pand high-tech co­op­er­a­tion in ar­eas like avi­a­tion, space and new en­ergy and forge a closer part­ner­ship,” Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping told vis­it­ing Saudi Crown Prince Sal­man bin Ab­dulaziz Al Saud dur­ing their meet­ing at the Great Hall of the People.

“We have al­ways seen Saudi Ara­bia as a good friend, brother and part­ner in the Mid­dle East and the Gulf re­gion,” Xi said, adding the two coun­tries should el­e­vate the level of their strate­gic re­la­tions.

He told the crown prince, also Saudi Ara­bia’s first deputy prime min­is­ter and de­fense min­is­ter, that China wants to work with Saudi Ara­bia to push for­ward ne­go­ti­a­tions on the free trade agree­ment be­tween China and the Gulf Co­op­er­a­tion Coun­cil.

It has been ex­pected that the prince’s visit will help push for­ward the restart of the ne­go­ti­a­tions.

The GCC is a po­lit­i­cal and eco­nomic union of six Arab states that bor­der the Gulf — Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Ara­bia and the United Arab Emi­rates. All six are ma­jor oil ex­porters.

The FTA ne­go­ti­a­tions be­gan in 2004 and have pro­duced a num­ber of ma­jor agree­ments. China’s trade vol­ume with GCC coun­tries in 2011 sur­passed $100 bil­lion for the first time. In 2012, trade ex­ceeded $150 bil­lion.

The pres­i­dent also in­vited Saudi Ara­bia to take part in China’s pro­posal to build the Silk Road Eco­nomic Belt and the 21st Century Mar­itime Silk Road and push for­ward trans­porta­tion in­fra­struc­ture con­struc­tion link­ing each other.

On the sit­u­a­tion in the Gulf re­gion and the Mid­dle East, Xi said China sup­ports Saudi Ara­bia’s ef­forts to main­tain sta­bil­ity in the coun­try and the re­gion at large. He of­fered to con­sol­i­date com­mu­ni­ca­tion and co­op­er­a­tion on these is­sues to jointly pro­mote re­gional peace.

“Saudi Ara­bia at­taches great im­por­tance to China’s great im­pact in the re­gion (the Gulf re­gion and the Mid­dle East) and ap­pre­ci­ates the ob­jec­tive and fair stance that China has all along held,” the prince said.

He said he ex­pects Bei­jing to play a con­struc­tive role in the early set­tle­ment of the Pales­tine and Syria is­sues and to push for re­gional de­nu­cle­ariza­tion.

“My visit at the king’s com­mand aims to strengthen strate­gic re­la­tions with China,” the prince told Xi.

In the few min­utes at the start of their talks when re­porters were al­lowed to stay, Xi said he ap­pre­ci­ated Saudi Ara­bia’s gen­er­ous do­na­tions af­ter the May 2008 Wenchuan earthquake, which killed more than 87,000 people in Sichuan prov­ince.

Saudi Ara­bia do­nated $50 mil­lion in cash and $10 mil­lion in re­lief ma­te­ri­als. “The Chi­nese people will not for­get it,” Xi said.

The prince be­gan his four­day of­fi­cial visit to China on Thurs­day. Vice-Pres­i­dent Li Yuan­chao hosted a wel­com­ing cer­e­mony at the Great Hall of the People, fol­lowed by the meet­ing with Xi. The pres­i­dent also hosted a ban­quet in honor of the prince.

Ac­cord­ing to Al Ara­biya News, the prince is likely to meet Pre­mier Li Ke­qiang and De­fense Min­is­ter Chang Wan­quan for “in­ten­sive dis­cus­sions”.

“We in China re­gard this visit as very im­por­tant and of high in­ter­est for us, as it would boost strate­gic re­la­tions,” Chi­nese Am­bas­sador to Saudi Ara­bia Li Cheng­wen told the Saudi-based Arab News.

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