By Ghazanfar Ali Khan
Crown Prince Naif, deputy premier and minister of interior, held wide-ranging talks with Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao in Riyadh Saturday night and pledged “to deepen strategic friendly ties, work together to tackle the global financial crisis and strengthen coordination in international and regional affairs.”
“The two leaders also discussed ways to boost bilateral ties to a new high,” said a diplomatic source, while giving details of the talks here.
“Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah will hold talks with the Chinese premier on Sunday,” said Li Lianghua, a Chinese Embassy spokesman.
He said Saturday’s talks focused on matters of common concerns as China values the important role Saudi Arabia has played in safeguarding regional peace and stability and ensuring energy security. “The talks with Crown Prince Naif also focused on key regional issues and international topics of common concerns,” he added.
Wen and his entourage were received by Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal and several senior Saudi officials at the Riyadh airport before they left for the Conference Palace to hold talks with Crown Prince Naif.
On Saturday night, the Chinese premier also attended a welcoming banquet hosted by Crown Prince Naif.
Xu Liang Ma, head of the political section at Chinese Embassy, said: “Iran is hot topic of discussion besides several bilateral, regional and international issues.”
He said, “A range of bilateral and regional issues including the Middle East peace process will also figure during the talks with senior Saudi officials.”
The talks are significant keeping in view the position of China on the issues related to Iran and Iranian oil. China has not been very comfortable with the new round of sanctions against Tehran.
The Chinese Embassy official stressed that the global financial crisis was discussed on Saturday and would also figure in Sunday’s talks.
The financial crisis, he said, has posed severe challenges and under such circumstances, strengthening bilateral cooperation between Riyadh and Beijing is of greater significance.
Wen’s visit to Saudi Arabia, part of a six-day Middle East tour starting Saturday with Riyadh, is the first by a Chinese premier in 20 years. Wen is accompanied by a huge contingent of high-ranking officials, bureaucrats and businessmen. His trip comes during an intense debate in Asia over oil supplies, prompted by US moves to impose sanctions on Iran, a mainstay of East Asia’s energy supply.
Against this background, Saudi Arabia and China have also agreed to expand the scale of economic and trade cooperation. Exchanges in the fields of education, sports and tourism are other areas, which will have desired impact on our bilateral ties, he added.
Referring to the common approach on a range of topics, a statement released by the Chinese Foreign Ministry said: “China and Arab countries should build upon their traditional ties, take full advantage of their respective strengths and jointly strive toward common development in the face of the new challenges. Political will for closer ties between China and the Arab world is evidently strong.”
Wen’s trip to Saudi Arabia coincides with the signing the Yanbu refinery deal, which is one of at least two energy deals expected to be announced during the premier’s trip to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar. In June, China’s top economic planner gave the go-head for Sinopec to build its 400,000-barrel-a-day refining complex with Saudi Aramco. Sinopec will initially hold a 37.5 percent stake, and Saudi will take a 62.5 percent stake in the project.
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