RIYADH: Saudi Arabia and China signed 14 agreements here Tuesday focused on energy, culture and industrial cooperation, and pledged to build a strategic partnership for better bilateral ties, common development and peace and security in the world.
The pledge came during wide-ranging talks between Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman and Chinese President Xi Jinping here at Al-Yamamah Palace.
Hailing China as a special partner, King Salman said in his welcome speech that the challenges facing the world, particularly terrorism, require the international community to unite in countering it.
“The international community should emphasize the principles established by the UN charter, particularly the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of states to ensure security and peace regionally and globally. I am confident that our discussions today will be in the interest of our two countries, and will enhance efforts being made to bring peace to the region,” said King Salman, who also hosted a luncheon banquet in honor of Xi.
The king said the bilateral ties have grown in the past 25 years since the establishment of diplomatic ties. “I recall my visit to your country (China) in March 2014, when I had fruitful meetings that reflect on joint cooperation in various fields,” said the king.
“The Kingdom and China are seeking together stability, peace and security in the world,” said the king, who also praised Xi’s efforts in this regard.
On Wednesday, Xi is scheduled to join King Salman for a ceremony to inaugurate the King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center on energy economics and policy in Riyadh. They will also open, remotely from Riyadh, the Yanbu Aramco Sinopec Refining Company Ltd. on the Kingdom’s Gulf coast.
The refinery is a joint venture between state-owned Saudi Aramco and China Petrochemical Corp. (Sinopec).
In his speech, the Chinese president thanked King Salman for his hospitality and stressed Beijing’s commitment to the partnership between the two countries. Xi also commended the measures taken by the king to stimulate development in the Kingdom.
“A total of 14 agreements including memorandums of understanding were also signed between the Kingdom and China at the palace,” said Fu Lihua, a spokeswoman of the Chinese embassy, while speaking to Arab News on Tuesday evening.
Asked about the details of the agreements, Fu said they were mainly in the fields of energy, culture and industrial cooperation. “The signing of the agreements was witnessed by King Salman and Xi together in a very candid and cordial atmosphere,” she said.
“Major pacts inked by the two sides also include an energy cooperation agreement and an accord to work together on the Silk Road Economic Belt Initiative to achieve goals of development within the framework of the initiative,” said Fu, in reference to China launching the initiative of jointly building the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road (the Belt and Road Initiative).
“We hope and trust that Saudi Arabia, located at the west crossroads of the Belt and Road, will become an important participant of, contributor to and beneficiary of this initiative,” said a diplomat. Specific projects under this initiative could range from a greater role for Chinese oil-services companies in the Kingdom and other countries in the Middle East, to public works such as water and sewage treatment projects.
Saudi Arabia has been interested in increasing its investments in Chinese oil refining and other downstream assets to cater to the growing Chinese consumption of gasoline and other oil products.
The two leaders also held talks on a range of bilateral, regional and international issues including Middle East conflicts, terrorism, security cooperation, energy ties and trade and investment with the GCC as a bloc.
Asked about the other pacts endorsed by the two sides, Yao Yu, energy attaché at the Chinese Embassy, said “a strategic framework agreement was also signed between Saudi Aramco and China’s Sinopec.”
Yao said the two countries were moving ahead to work closely in the nuclear field. Saudi Arabia is China’s biggest global supplier of crude oil and its biggest regional trading partner. “In fact, a memorandum of understanding was also signed to boost cooperation in the renewable energy sector,” said Yao.