Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah today concluded an official state visit to China, the first visit by a Saudi king to that nation since the two countries established formal diplomatic relations in 1990. As Crown Prince, Abdullah visited China in 1998. The King will also visit India, Pakistan and Malaysia on his four-nation tour.
In Beijing, the King met with Chinese President Hu Jintao yesterday. President Hu gave King Abdullah a red carpet welcome in the Great Hall of the People, and noted that the visit would begin a new chapter in Saudi-Sino relations, the Arab News reported today.
In remarks during the meeting, King Abdullah said that he looks forward to further Saudi-Sino cooperation. “We take pride in our friendship with China, and we assert our commitment to the principle of ‘one’ China,” the King said.
Describing King Abdullah as a respected and old friend of China, President Hu said, “This will write a new chapter of friendly cooperation between China and Saudi Arabia in a new century,” Hu said, as quoted in the Arab News.
King Abdullah and Chinese President Hu Jintao
“You are the first Saudi king to come to China; this visit is also your first overseas one since you became king, and China is the first stop on this (four-nation) trip. These three firsts show fully that your majesty places great importance on developing relations between our two countries,” he said.
Five agreements were signed following the meeting, including a landmark pact for expanding cooperation in oil, natural gas and minerals as well as accords covering cooperation in economic, trade, technical areas and taxation. Saudi Arabia also agreed to provide a loan to improve the infrastructure of the Chinese city of Aksu in the oil-rich Xinjiang region, the Arab News reported.
Both Saudi Arabia and China said they expected the agreements to bring a new era of closer economic ties between the two nations.
Before the signing ceremony for the accords, Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal – who is traveling with the King – said that the energy agreement provides a framework for specific energy investments, but agreements on the projects would have to be signed between Saudi and Chinese oil companies. Prince Saud suggested that specific agreements would be signed soon.
King Abdullah with Prime Minister Wen Jiabao
In their talks, the two leaders also discussed major regional and international issues, including the situation in Iraq, Iran, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the fight against terrorism. In the evening, the president held a banquet in honor of King Abdullah.
In remarks Saturday, Saudi Ambassador to China Saleh Al-Hujeilan stressed the importance of the King’s visit, and said he was optimistic that it would further enhance friendly Saudi-Sino relations.
Chinese officials also underscored the importance of the visit.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Kong Quan noted that trade between China and Saudi Arabia has grown rapidly in recent years, reaching $14.5 billion in the first 11 months of 2005. China imported 20.1 million tons of crude oil from Saudi Arabia from January to November 2005, the Chinese spokesman said.
Saudi and Chinese delegations meet
The Kingdom has also offered Chinese companies investment opportunities worth $624 billion in vital sectors such as petrochemicals, gas, desalination, power generation and railways, according to a report yesterday in the Arab News.
In Beijing, King Abdullah met with the Chinese State Council and the Chinese Islamic Society. He also visited a Saudi civil delegation currently in China. Sent by the Ministry of Culture and Information, the delegation hopes to educate the Chinese people about various aspects of Saudi life and culture. It has already visited a number of cultural centers and academic institutions in Beijing, as well as meeting with members of the Chinese press.