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Chinese president arrives in Riyadh at start of "trip of friendship, cooperation"
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21:47, February 10, 2009

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Chinese President Hu Jintao arrived in Riyadh on Tuesday at the start of his "trip of friendship and cooperation" with Saudi Arabia and Africa.

"With the joint efforts, I am convinced that the visit will be a complete success and the China-Saudi Arabia strategic friendship will be further developed," Hu said in a written statement on arrival at Riyadh Air Base.

Hu was greeted by Saudi Arabian King Abdullah bin Abdul-Aziz ina welcoming ceremony at the airport.

Visiting Chinese President Hu Jintao (L front) and Saudi Arabian King Abdullah bin Abdul-Aziz (R front) attend a welcoming ceremony upon Hu's arrival at the airport in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Feb. 10, 2009. (Xinhua/Ju Peng)

During his two-day visit, Hu will hold talks with King Abdullah, to exchange views on international and regional issues of common concern.

Hu will also meet with Secretary General of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Abdul Rahman Al-Attiya to discuss cooperation between China and GCC member countries.

Chinese President Hu Jintao (L front) and Saudi Arabian King Abdullah bin Abdul-Aziz (R front) review the honor guard during a welcoming ceremony upon Hu's arrival at the airport in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Feb. 10, 2009. (Xinhua/Ju Peng)

In recent years, the China-Saudi strategic friendship has advanced, yielding fruitful results in politics, economy, trade, and culture, Hu said in the statement.

"China attaches great importance to bilateral relations with Saudi Arabia and is ready to work with the Saudi side to deepen pragmatic cooperation which benefits the two peoples," Hu said.

Hu's last trip to Saudi Arabia was in April 2006, three months after King Abdullah paid a historic visit to Beijing. The king's visit was the first by a Saudi head of state to China since the two countries established diplomatic relations in 1990.

After the magnitude-8.0 earthquake hit western China and claimed nearly 90,000 lives in May 2008, King Abdullah became the biggest donor to China, offering a cash donation of 50 million U.S. dollars and materials worth 10 million U.S. dollars.

Saudi Arabia is now China's largest trading partner in West Asia and Africa. In 2008, two-way trade between China and Saudi Arabia amounted to 41.8 billion U.S. dollars.

Saudi Arabia is a member of the GCC , which plays an important role in maintaining peace and stability in the Gulf region and boosting regional economic development, as well as contributing to international energy markets.

The GCC, established in 1981, consists of six Arab countries, namely Oman, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirate.

Chinese President Hu Jintao (R front) is greeted by Saudi Arabian King Abdullah bin Abdul-Aziz during a welcoming ceremony upon Hu's arrival at the airport in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Feb. 10, 2009. (Xinhua/Ju Peng)

Saudi Arabia is the first leg of Hu's first overseas trip in 2009. The week-long visit will also take the president to Mali, Senegal, Tanzania and Mauritius.

"Hu's visit is aimed at promoting China-Saudi strategic friendly relations, boosting the China-Africa new strategic partnership and consolidating the China-Africa traditional friendship," Assistant Chinese Foreign Minister Zhai Jun said ahead of Hu's visit.

Enhancing solidarity and cooperation with African countries has always been an important component of China's independent foreign policy of peace.

"The past year witnessed significant progress in China-Africa relations. The two sides maintained high-level exchanges and deepened strategic mutual trust," Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi said in an interview with Xinhua last month.

He said that the eight policy measures of pragmatic cooperation with Africa announced by President Hu at the Beijing Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation in November 2006 were carried out steadily.

Official figures show that the China-Africa trade volume hit an all time high in 2008, reaching 106.8 billion U.S. dollars.

"The year 2009 is an important year for China-Africa relations to continue to move forward and will create new development opportunities for the bilateral ties. The Chinese leaders will continue to take the development of relations with Africa as a top priority of Chinese diplomacy," the minister said.


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