17:40 GMT +326 September 2017
Live
    Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi (R) and Chinese President Xi Jinping (L) shake hands after their joint press conference following their meeting in Cairo, Egypt, January 21, 2016, in this handout courtesy of the Egyptian Presidency. Picture taken January 21, 2016

    Xi Jinping's Charm Offensive: China Extends a Helping Hand to the Mideast

    © REUTERS/ The Egyptian Presidency/Handout
    Politics
    Get short URL
    11276254

    Chinese President Xi Jinping is visiting Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Iran as part of a five-day trip, which has seen Beijing ink billion-dollar deals and boost ties in the Middle East at a time when Washington's presence in the oil-rich region is becoming less pronounced.

    Xi's tour is largely focused on economic and energy cooperation with the Arab world, the South China Morning Post noted. But "it is also a mission to forge closer political, diplomatic and military ties with countries and to promote China's image and influence as a global power, resembling what the Middle Kingdom was 2,000 years ago," the newspaper asserted.

    Saudi King Salman (centre R) and Chinese President Xi Jinping review the honour guard during a welcoming ceremony in Riyadh
    © REUTERS/ Saudi Press Agency
    Saudi King Salman (centre R) and Chinese President Xi Jinping review the honour guard during a welcoming ceremony in Riyadh

    Xi's tour first brought him to Saudi Arabia, China's largest oil supplier, earlier this week. The Chinese president and King Salman agreed to foster energy cooperation between the two countries and oversaw the opening of a major Yanbu oil refinery, a joint Saudi Aramco and Sinopec venture.

    In addition, China announced that it plans to finalize "a comprehensive free trade agreement" with the Gulf Cooperation Council later this year. The talks on the issue were launched in 2004, but the process was suspended in 2009.

    Xi later traveled to Egypt. China's state-run news agency Xinhua described the ties between the two countries as a "comprehensive strategic partnership." Incidentally, the same formula was applied with regard to China's relations with the oil kingdom and Iran.

    Chinese President Xi Jinping visits the parliament in Cairo, Egypt, Thursday, Jan. 21, 2016.
    © AP Photo/ Ahmed Omar
    Chinese President Xi Jinping visits the parliament in Cairo, Egypt, Thursday, Jan. 21, 2016.

    The two-day visit of the Chinese president to the North African nation produced more than 20 agreements covering civil aviation, electricity, higher education, science, media, banking and trade. The Chinese president also said that Beijing plans to invest as much as $15 billion in Egypt's economy as both countries agreed to promote cooperation under Xi's signature foreign policy initiative, known as the One Belt, One Road.

    Ahead of his visit to the Islamic Republic, Xi noted that Beijing wants "to strengthen strategic cooperation with Iran." He also announced plans to provide humanitarian aid to Syria, Libya, Yemen, Lebanon and Jordan amounting to almost $35 million in 2016.

    Xi's tour comes a week after Beijing unveiled its first official strategy towards the Middle East. Known as the Arab Policy Paper, the document called for greater political, economic, energy and security cooperation with the region. Relations between China and the Arab world, according to the brief, should be based on the One Belt, One Road development strategy.

    Related:

    China to Boost Silk Road Project During 2016-2020 Economic Plan
    China Expects to Invest Some $15Bln in Egypt, Signing Agreements
    China to Provide Humanitarian Aid Worth $35Mln to Mideast Countries
    China Ready to Enhance Strategic Cooperation With Iran for Joint Prosperity
    Tags:
    Middle East, New Silk Road, cooperation, Xi Jinping, Iran, China, Saudi Arabia, Egypt
    Community standardsDiscussion
    Comment via FacebookComment via Sputnik
    • Сomment