Xi meets Sisi as China, Arab countries to hold conference – Global Times

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Flags hang in Tian’anmen Square on May 29, 2024 to welcome Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, Tunisia’s President Kais Saied, and United Arab Emirates’ President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan on their state visit to China. Photo: VCG

Chinese President Xi Jinping held talks with visiting Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi in Beijing on Wednesday. Multiple top leaders from Arab countries are expected to pay state visits to China and attend the opening ceremony of the 10th Ministerial Conference of the China-Arab States Cooperation Forum, which will be held on May 30. Experts said that China and Arab countries will boost cooperation at the conference, and discuss the ongoing crisis in Gaza as Israel bombed Rafah, causing serious civilian casualties. 

During the meeting, Xi noted that, 68 years ago, Egypt was the first Arab and African state to establish diplomatic relations with China. This year marks the 10th anniversary of the establishment of the China-Egypt comprehensive strategic partnership, he said, adding that over the past decade, the two heads of state have worked together to guide the vigorous development of bilateral relations.

China-Egypt relations have become a vivid illustration of China’s solidarity, coordination, and mutually-beneficial win-win cooperation with Arab, African, Islamic and developing countries, Xi said, adding that under the new circumstances, building a more enriched and dynamic China-Egypt relationship meets the common expectations of the two peoples. 

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Xi said that China is ready to work with Egypt to deepen mutual trust, advance cooperation, build a China-Egypt community with a shared future in the new era, and contribute to regional and world peace, stability, development and prosperity.

The two sides also exchanged views on the Israel-Palestine conflict. Xi said that the current round of conflict has caused massive losses of innocent Palestinian civilians, while the humanitarian situation in Gaza is extremely dire. The most urgent task is an immediate cease-fire and cessation of conflict to prevent escalating impacts on regional peace and stability, and prevent an even graver humanitarian crisis. The “two-state solution” remains the fundamental path to resolving the Palestinian issue. China firmly supports Palestine’s bid to become a full member state of the United Nations, Xi said. 

The Chinese Foreign Ministry announced that apart from the Egyptian president, Arab leaders including Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, Tunisia’s President Kais Saied, and the UAE’ President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan will pay state visits to China. The ministry also announced that President Xi will attend the opening ceremony of the conference with the four Arab heads of state and deliver a keynote speech.

Palestine issue

“These four countries are either actively involved in pushing for a cease-fire in the current Israeli-Palestinian conflict, or are somewhat involved in the crisis. The participation of the leaders of these four countries at the Beijing-held conference, on one hand, reflects the importance that these countries attach to promoting cooperation with China. On the other hand, this shows that the leaders intend to take this opportunity to discuss a political settlement of the Palestinian-Israeli issue with China,” said Li Xinggang, a research fellow at the Institute for Studies on the Mediterranean Rim at Zhejiang International Studies University.

China and Arab States could form a joint statement on urging Israel to stop the attack on Rafah and to call for a fundamental settlement of the issue of Palestine, Li said.

The common stance to support the just cause of the Palestinian people shared by China and Arab countries has always been a significant element in China-Arab cooperation, experts said. 

Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Deng Li on Tuesday met Permanent Observer of the State of Palestine to the UN Riyad Mansour, who is in Beijing to attend the 10th Ministerial Conference of the China-Arab States Cooperation Forum, according to the  Chinese Foreign Ministry.

Deng said at the meeting that China has always firmly supported the just cause of the Palestinian people to restore their legitimate rights for their nation, and stands ready to work with Palestine to take this ministerial meeting as an opportunity to push for greater development of the China-Palestine strategic partnership and elevate China-Arab cooperation to a new level.

China is deeply saddened by the prolonged Palestinian-Israeli conflict. The pressing task now is to effectively implement the relevant UN Security Council resolutions and immediately realize an unconditional and lasting cease-fire and ensure humanitarian relief, Deng said.

China supports Palestine in becoming a full member state of the UN and stands ready to continue to work with the international community for an early, comprehensive, just and lasting settlement of the Palestinian issue on the basis of the two-State solution, Deng noted.

Mansour appreciated China’s efforts to support the just cause of Palestine, and said that the ministerial conference will set a milestone for China-Arab friendly cooperation. He expects the conference will conclude with fruitful achievements.

Israel has conducted at least two strikes against Rafah city in the Gaza Strip recently and caused serious casualties on local civilians, according to Palestinian security and medical sources. 

Niu Xinchun, executive director of the China-Arab Research Institute of Ningxia University, told the Global Times on Wednesday that if China and the Arab countries can form a joint statement on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict after the conference, it will greatly help the international community to reach a clear and firm consensus. This in turn will allow other nations to put more pressure on Israel to stop the attack in Gaza. 

Mao Ning, a spokesperson of the Chinese Foreign Ministry, said at the routine press conference on Wednesday that “China expresses grave concern over Israel’s military operations against Rafah and strongly calls on Israel to heed the overwhelming call of the international community and stop attacking Rafah.” 

“As the current Palestinian-Israeli conflict continues to drag on, the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip is extremely grave. We call on all parties to immediately cease fire and stop fighting and spare no effort to avoid the casualties of innocent civilians and prevent an even more serious humanitarian disaster in the Gaza Strip,” Mao noted.

China-Arab cooperation

Aside from hot-spot issues, China-Arab cooperation is always a focus of the forum. Chinese analysts said that China and Arab countries will deepen cooperation in fields like traditional energies and will explore cooperation in other fields like solar power, wind energy, civil nuclear power, finance and infrastructure.  

Cooperation between China and Arab countries is likely to also focus on high-tech fields like artificial intelligence and electric vehicles. “If there are any breakthroughs we can expect they might be related to the aerospace industry and space cooperation,” said Niu Xinchun, executive director of the China-Arab Research Institute of Ningxia University. 

“In addition, there are also many achievements in the field of cultural exchanges. At present, many people in Arab countries are studying Chinese, and they love to watch Chinese films and TV series, so cooperation in these fields could further boost ties between the peoples,” Niu noted.

Sun Degang, director of the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Fudan University, said that “there are a few points where we can expect new growth, such as the digital economy and bio-pharmacy.” 

China has been the largest trading partner of Arab countries for years. The volume of trade between the two sides reached $398 billion in 2023, compared to $36.7 billion in 2004, according to data released by China’s Foreign Ministry.

In December 2022 at the first China-Arab States Summit in Riyadh, Chinese President Xi called for fostering a closer China-Arab community with a shared future.

“If we compare Arab-Chinese relations in 2004 and those of 20 years later, we find there is a vast difference. Of course, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) contributed to this growth,” said Magdy Amer, former Egyptian ambassador to China, the Xinhua News Agency reported.

Amer, also a former deputy foreign minister of Egypt, said that “The establishment of the forum in 2004 and then the launch of the BRI in 2013 were the two key factors that together promoted Arab-Chinese relations to a completely different level.”

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