BEIJING, Jan. 18 (Xinhua) -- Chinese President Xi Jinping's upcoming visit to Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Iran is set to highlight China's constructive role in promoting peace and development in the Middle East.
PEACE AND STABILITY
President Xi's tightly scheduled visit includes meetings with Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and Iranian President Hassan Rowhani and a speech at the headquarters of the League of Arab States (LAS) in Cairo. In the speech, Xi will make clear China's policies and proposals for promoting peace and development in the region.
Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Ming said at a briefing on Monday that in these meetings, Xi and Middle East leaders will hold an extensive exchange of views on major regional and international issues to advance peace and stability in the region and the world.
During his visit to Riyadh, Xi will also hold separate meetings with Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Secretary-General Abdul Latif Bin Rashid Al Zayani and Organization of the Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Secretary-General Iyad Ameen Madani.
China has always held a just and balanced stance on promoting peace and stability in the Middle East, Zhang said. China has maintained thorough communication with Middle East countries to help ease tensions in the region. He said through Xi's visit, China will continue to play a constructive role in promoting peace and stability in the Middle East.
"Xi's visit will help outline the new, active role that China wants to play in the Middle East," said Bai Lianlei, assistant researcher with the China Institute of International Studies.
Bai said China is one of only a few countries in the world that simultaneously maintain sound relations with Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Israel. He said Xi's Middle East trip at this juncture reflects the ever greater priority that China attaches to the region in its foreign policy. The trip will help recast China's role in the Middle East and set an orientation for the future growth of China-Middle East relations.
The three countries that Xi will visit during his first Middle East trip are all greatly influential in the region.
According to Vice Foreign Minister Zhang, China has always adopted a just and balanced stance on hot issues in the region. He emphasized China's consistent stance on terrorism and said Xi will exchange views with the leaders of the three countries on regional and international issues.
Zhang said both China and the Middle East are victims of terrorism and important participants in international counter-terrorism cooperation.
"We are ready to jointly address the challenge of terrorism," the vice foreign minister said.
In the past few years, China has stepped up its efforts to mediate touchy issues in the Middle East and played a unique role in resolving the Iranian nuclear issue, the South Sudan issue and the Yemen crisis.
"Xi's visit to the three countries shows that China has accumulated diplomatic resources and political wisdom (in addressing these issues)," Bai Lianlei said.
China insists that promoting development is fundamental to realizing peace and stability in the region. China has firmly supported all countries in the region to explore their development paths according to their own national conditions. China is opposed to double standards on anti-terrorism and in connecting terrorism with specific religious and ethnic issues.
China now has more than 1,700 peace-keeping personnel in the Middle East, accounting for more than half the number the country has sent abroad for global peace-keeping missions.
Xi's visit will help plan pragmatic cooperation with the three countries and bring results. According to Vice Foreign Minister Zhang, cooperative projects are likely to emerge in energy, infrastructure, trade and investment, nuclear energy, space and satellites, new energy, science, technology, education and people-to-people cooperation.
Financial cooperation will also become an important point of cooperation between China and the three countries, Zhang said.
Xi's visit to Saudi Arabia will help lift bilateral relations to a comprehensive strategic partnership. He and King Salman will jointly witness the signing of a series of cooperative documents and plan for the growth of bilateral ties for the next decade.
"The Belt and Road Initiative that President Xi put forward has received an enthusiastic response from Middle East countries," Vice Foreign Minister Zhang said.
Zhang said China-Iran relations are facing major opportunities for growth as Iran greatly improves its interactions with the international community. He said the two countries will sign a series of cooperative documents during Xi's milestone visit to Tehran.
"China will continue to support Chinese companies to participate in projects in ... Iran's energy sector," Zhang said, emphasizing that such commercial cooperation has always been transparent, normal and open.
During Xi's visit to Egypt, the two countries will develop a comprehensive plan for further cooperation. Xi will attend the signing ceremony of a number of cooperative documents and the unveiling of the second phase of the China-Egypt Suez Economic and Trade Cooperation Zone.
It will be a milestone visit as the two countries celebrate the 60th anniversary of diplomatic ties in Cairo.
In his speech at the League of Arab States headquarters, Xi will put forward fresh proposals on deepening pragmatic cooperation between China and Middle East nations.
Over the past decade, China's trade with the Middle East has grown from 20 billion U.S. dollars to 230 billion U.S. dollars. The figure is expected to top 500 billion U.S. dollars by 2020.
The visit will reinforce the time-honored friendship and deepen mutual trust, pragmatic cooperation and cultural exchanges in a bid to realize common development, Bai Lianlei said.
People-to-people exchanges will be another focus of Xi's trip.
He will deliver an important speech to Middle Eastern and Arab nations at the headquarters of the League of Arab States in Cairo. He will also present awards to individuals who have made outstanding contributions to China-Arab friendship.
Xi will attend a ceremony marking the beginning of the China-Egypt cultural exchange year.
During his trips to Saudi Arabia and Iran, the countries will reach agreements on strengthening people-to-people exchanges.
China has always advocated equal exchanges among different cultures and respect for diversity.
Li Guofu, head of the Middle East Department of the China Institute of International Studies, said China and Middle East countries experienced similar suffering during the colonial era and have common hopes for development. He said the countries now need to enhance mutual understanding in order to tap into the huge potential for cooperation.
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