Chinese leader concludes Middle East trip

135039034_14535770532791nBEIJING, Jan. 24 (Xinhua) — Chinese President Xi Jinping returned to Beijing early Sunday morning after his state visits to Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Iran.

Xi visited Saudi Arabia at the invitation of Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud. The two countries agreed to upgrade the bilateral ties to a comprehensive strategic partnership.

He then visited Egypt at the invitation of Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi. The two sides signed a five-year outline document to further advance their relationship.

At the invitation of Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani, Xi visited Iran. The two sides agreed to elevate the bilateral ties to a comprehensive strategic partnership.

“China stands ready to work with Iran to lift our mutually-beneficial cooperation in such fields as politics, economy and trade, energy, infrastructure, security, and cultural and people-to-people exchanges to a new stage,” the president said.

Rouhani said Iran will respond actively to the Belt and Road Initiative, a vision Xi put forward in 2013 to boost interconnectivity and common development along the ancient land and maritime Silk Roads.

The two sides signed a Memorandum of Understanding on jointly pursuing the initiative.

The Chinese president highlighted a few priorities in the practical cooperation with Iran within the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative such as energy, interconnectivity, industrial capacity and finance.

China hopes the Iran nuclear deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), can be implemented smoothly, Xi said.

China and Iran agreed to set up an annual meeting mechanism between their foreign ministers. They also said that China supports Iran’s application for full membership of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).

Xi also met with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani.

Khamenei said that Tehran is willing to push the bilateral practical cooperation to a new high. Iran is an important country along the Belt and Road and stands ready to play a greater role in jointly pursuing the initiative with China, the supreme leader said.

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