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Xi visit to bolster Saudi-China ties

RIYADH: Chinese President Xi Jinping is scheduled to visit Saudi Arabia on Tuesday when he will meet with Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman to discuss trade and other ties.
Ambassador Li Chengwen told Arab News on Friday that Xi would hold talks on bilateral issues. The SPA said the talks would include regional and international issues of common interest.
According to Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang, Xi is on a Middle East tour from Jan. 19 to 23 and would also be heading to Egypt and Iran, where he would meet with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi and Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani.
Li Shaoxian, vice president of the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, a government think-tank, said China had to step up to the plate in the Middle East, but stressed China’s role would be different from other superpowers. “The Middle East is a touchstone for major powers,” Li said, quoted by Reuters.
“Whether it is a graveyard depends on whether a country seeks hegemony,” Li said, adding that was not China’s intention.
A Chinese president has not visited Saudi Arabia since 2009 when Hu Jintao went, and Jiang Zemin was the last Chinese president to visit Iran, going in 2002.
Ahead of Xi’s visit, China reportedly issued a policy paper on Arab countries expressing its willingness to coordinate development strategies with Arab states. “We encourage and support the expansion and optimization of mutual investment by enterprises from the two sides,” the paper said.
It also stated that China was ready to continue to provide loans on favorable terms to Arab countries, as well as export credits. Arab countries as a whole have become China’s biggest supplier of crude oil and the seventh biggest trading partner.
Saudi Arabia remains China’s largest trade partner in the Middle East.
Meanwhile, President of Mexico Enrique Pena Nieto will arrive here today to meet King Salman for bilateral talks.

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