China ready to greet Syrian president on his first visit in 12 years


BEIJING: Syrian President Bashar al-Assad will travel to China this week, where he is expected to engage in a bilateral summit as well as other high-level meetings.

It is the first time the Syrian president has visited China since the start of the Syrian crisis more than 12 years ago.

Given China’s positive role in mediating a deal in March between Saudi Arabia and Iran, Chinese experts believe that Assad’s visit will extend the Middle East’s recognition toward China’s concept of seeking regional peaceful development. Practical cooperation on China’s engagement in Syria’s reconstruction is expected to be discussed.

Reuters, citing a statement from the presidency in Damascus, reported on Tuesday that Assad, accompanied by Syrian first lady Asmaa al-Assad and a senior delegation, will travel to China on Thursday for a string of meetings in Beijing and Changzhou, East China’s Jiangsu Province. A Syria-China summit will also be held.

Asked to confirm Assad’s reported visit to China at Wednesday’s routine press conference, Mao Ning, a spokesperson of the Chinese Foreign Ministry, said the ministry will update in due course.

Assad’s visit to China will be perceived as a sign that China-Syria relations could be restored once again to the level prior to the “Arab Spring,” when the two sides were engaged in a broad range of cooperation and shared a steady friendship between peoples of the two countries, said Yin Gang, a research fellow at the Institute of West-Asian and African Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

It is expected that Assad will touch on practical cooperation when meeting with Chinese leaders, including the resumption of previous projects such as the construction of reservoirs, oil fields and other infrastructure projects, as well as discussing new potential areas of cooperation, Yin said.

The Assad visit comes at a time when Syria is seeking a new balanced and comprehensive diplomacy in the new historical period, and China is undoubtedly a very important part, Yin opined.

Syria pins great hope on China to engage in the reconstruction of Syria and to facilitate communication with Turkey, Iran and Russia as an independent, neutral major country so as to gradually restore Assad’s central government’s control of the country, Yin said.

Assad’s visit to China is an extension of the Middle East’s recognition of China’s diplomatic concept. China firmly supports Arab states’ strengthening of coordination and strategic independence to jointly boost regional stability and development, Li Weijian, a research fellow with the Institute for Foreign Policy Studies of the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies, said.

China’s concept of seeking regional and national peaceful development has played a positive role in prompting regional reconciliation in the Middle East, Li noted. He said that Middle Eastern countries are now seeking a more harmonious geopolitical environment and bilateral relations since the accelerated reconciliation in the Middle East. Their fundamental demand is to develop themselves, which is also China’s consistent position.

In sharp contrast to the US, which has an image of provoker in the Middle East, shirking the responsibility it should have taken, China consistently adheres to solving conflicts through diplomatic dialogue and opposes foreign interference in Syria’s internal affairs, Wang Jin, an associate professor at the Institute of Middle Eastern Studies of Northwest University, he concluded.__Courtesy Pakistan Today