Before concluding his official visit to Egypt, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao gave a press conference in Cairo on Sunday. It was attended by about 100 reporters from China, major Egyptian media and international news agencies based in Egypt. The following is the transcript of the press conference:
Al Ahram (Egyptian newspaper): What is your comment on the significance of this visit to Egypt? How do you see the future of China-Egypt relations? And what kind of role do you think China can play in the Middle East?
Answer: My visit to Egypt coincides with the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between China and Egypt. China and Egypt both have ancient civilizations. As President (Hosni) Mubarak said: "China and Egypt are both creators of human glory and progress and defender of mankind's cultural heritage, and we both pursue lofty values and ideals." This encapsulates China-Egypt relations. Over the past 50 years, China and Egypt have supported and helped each other, and forged a brotherly relationship. During the two-day visit, I have met President Mubarak and had talks with Prime Minister (Ahmed) Nazif, and the Guideline Program between China and Egypt on Deepening Strategic Cooperation was signed between the two sides. We also reached broad agreement on bilateral relations and major international and regional issues of mutual interest. I am confident that with our joint efforts, China-Egypt relations will grow in strength and the China-Egypt friendship will be as enduring as the pyramids.
As to what kind of role China will play in the Middle East, my answer is that China will continue to play a positive and constructive role.
Sankei Shinbun of Japan: The conflict between Palestine and Israel is currently the biggest problem in the Middle East. What contribution can China make on this issue? Some parties have imposed sanctions on the Hamas-led Palestinian government. Does China plan to show its support for the Hamas-led Government by giving assistance to it?
Answer: China supports the Middle East peace process and the Roadmap initiative. We believe that the conflict between Palestine and Israel should be settled through dialogue and political negotiation and on the basis of relevant UN resolutions and the principle of "land for peace". China hopes that various factions of Palestine will handle their differences in a calm way and reach consensus on their internal policy through consultation. This will also be conducive to resolving the Palestine-Israel conflict.
China hopes to see a Middle East that is peaceful, stable and growing. The role that China plays is to promote reconciliation and facilitate dialogue among the parties concerned, and we hope that the Palestinians and Israelis will live and pursue development in a peaceful environment.
The current situation in the Middle East and the humanitarian situation of Palestine are a source of concern. China is not in favor of political isolation or economic blockade. The international community should provide more assistance to Palestine and help President (Mahmoud) Abbas and the Palestinian Government achieve internal stability.
EFE of Spain: Over the past few years, China has been playing a bigger role in the international arena. China is also seeking closer ties with Latin American and African countries. Do you think this will cause frictions or even collision with the United States when China grows its relations with countries in Africa and Latin America?
Answer: Though China has made remarkable progress in its economic and social development in recent years, it still adheres to an independent foreign policy of peace. China's effort to develop friendly relations and cooperation with African and Latin American countries is not targeted at any third country, nor will such effort undermine any other country's interests. I believe this is also recognized by the U.S. Government.
Middle East News Agency (MENA): The Beijing Summit and Ministerial Conference of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation will be held in November. Is technical assistance part of the aid package China will offer Africa during the meeting? What will China do to help bring Africa into the 21st century? Will the assistance be tied with human rights, good governance and other issues? What is the objective of this Summit?
Answer: The Forum on China-Africa Cooperation is an effective mechanism for group dialogue between China and African countries as well as an important platform for enhancing cooperation. China and Africa should make the best use of this platform to conduct friendly and mutually beneficial cooperation. I am confident that the Beijing Summit in November will give a strong boost to the future growth of China-Africa relations.
China-Africa friendship and cooperation have developed for half a century. Even when it was in the most difficult time itself, China still rendered valuable support and gave assistance to African countries and peoples. China's assistance to African countries covers a wide range of areas. Over the past 50 years, to help Africa develop its economy, China has completed some 900 infrastructure projects and projects for social development in Africa, sent 16,000 medical personnel to 43 African countries, who have treated 240 million patients.
During the upcoming Summit, we will focus on economic cooperation, training of professionals and business investment. Within the framework of the Forum, China has canceled debt of 10.5 billion RMB incurred by 31 Heavily Indebted Poor Countries and least developed countries in Africa, and gives zero-tariff treatment to 190 categories of import commodities from 29 least developed countries in Africa. During the 2nd Ministerial Conference in Addis Ababa three years ago, China pledged to train 10,000 professionals for Africa. The training will be completed as scheduled this year. China encourages Chinese companies to come to Africa to carry out cooperation. Such cooperation is aimed at improving Africa's capacity for self-development.
The objective of the Summit is to build a new type of China- Africa strategic partnership featuring political equality and mutual trust, economic win-win cooperation and cultural exchange.
Reuters: What do you think is the best way to break the stalemate of the Iranian nuclear issue at the current stage? During your visit, a number of trade agreements will be signed between China and African countries, how do you view such agreements in relation to human rights and environmental protection?
Answer: Let me first make clear the position of the Chinese Government on the Iranian nuclear issue. We firmly support maintaining the integrity of international nuclear non- proliferation regime and oppose proliferation of nuclear weapons. We believe that Iran has the right to peaceful use of nuclear energy. But it must honor its due obligations and commitments and take steps to enhance confidence of the international community. We maintain that the Iranian nuclear issue should be resolved through diplomatic means. The proposal made at the foreign ministers' meeting of P-5 plus Germany has laid down the foundation for peaceful settlement of the issue. We hope that parties concerned will seize the opportunity, adopt a constructive attitude and demonstrate greater flexibility to facilitate the early resumption of the negotiation. China will continue to work on and cooperate with relevant parties in its own way.
Africa is home to 53 countries and over 800 million people. China places high value on growing economic and trade relations with African countries. Last year, the total trade volume between China and Africa was merely 39.8 billion U.S. dollars. And Africa ran a trade surplus of 2.4 billion dollars. We see enormous potential in China-Africa economic relations and trade.
We pursue the following three priorities in our efforts to develop economic and trade relations with Africa: First, to expand imports from Africa. China will take strong steps to create conditions for Africa to promote its products in China. Second, to combine technical assistance with economic assistance and cooperation. China will focus on enhancing Africa's capacity for self-development. Third, to help Africa train technicians and management professionals
In developing relations with Africa, the Chinese Government adheres to the principle of mutual respect, equality, mutual benefit and non-interference in other's internal affairs. China supports the development of democracy and rule of law in Africa. But we never impose our own will on others. We believe that people in every region and country have the right and ability to properly handle their own affairs. The international community should respect the choice independently made by African countries in terms of model of development.
ITAR-TASS: Was energy cooperation discussed between China and Egypt, especially possible energy supply from Egypt to China?
Answer: China-Egypt cooperation is comprehensive in nature. Energy is an important pillar of the Egyptian economy. We are willing to conduct energy cooperation with Egypt on the basis of equality and mutual benefit.
China Radio International: A follow up question on the energy issue. Your visit to Africa attracts a lot of attention. Some reports say that China just wants oil in growing relations with African countries and China is pursuing so-called "neo-colonialism ". What's your comment on this?
Answer: The hat of "neo-colonialism" simply doesn't fit China. For over 110 years after the Opium War in 1840, China was the victim of colonial aggression. The Chinese nation knows too well the sufferings caused by colonial rule and the need to fight colonialism. This is a main reason why we have all along supported the national liberation and resurgence of Africa.