ATHENS, June 19 -- Chinese Premier Li Keqiang's upcoming visit to Greece is expected to strengthen bilateral political ties and expand cooperation in such areas as economy, infrastructure, shipping and culture.
Li will arrive here later Thursday for an official visit after wrapping up his Britain trip. It will be his first trip to Greece as premier.
He is scheduled to hold talks with Greek leaders including President Karolos Papoulias, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and Parliament Speaker Evangelos Vasileios Meimarakis.
Calling Li's visit a milestone in turning the traditional China-Greece cooperation into a more substantial relationship, Chinese Ambassador to Greece Zou Xiaoli noted that the two sides will sign over 20 cooperation agreements and business contracts regarding trade, investment, finance, the ocean, technology, culture and quality inspection.
STRONGER POLITICAL TIES
China and Greece are two ancient civilizations that, despite the distance between them, are closely connected by their similar past and the traditional friendship of their peoples.
Since the forging of diplomatic relations in June 1972, China and Greece have seen stable growth of ties and enhancement of political trust. In 2006, the two established a comprehensive strategic partnership.
Greece gave support to China in holding the Beijing Olympics, and to the Chinese cities of Beijing and Zhangjiakou in bidding for the 2022 Winter Olympics.
In 2011, when China evacuated its nationals from war-torn Libya and asked for help from Greece, Athens responded promptly, receiving the evacuees and providing them with food and accommodations.
At the end of 2009, a severe debt crisis broke out in Greece. Then Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao vowed firm support for the country and announced a set of measures to deepen bilateral maritime transport cooperation during a visit to the country.
Over the past two years, top government officials from the two countries have exchanged frequent visits and maintained close coordination on major regional and international affairs.
Li's Greece trip will further consolidate the traditional bilateral friendship, deepen political trust and expand win-win cooperation in diversified fields, said Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Wang Chao.
CLOSER ECONOMIC COOPERATION
As a highlight of the upcoming visit, Chinese and Greek prime ministers will jointly inspect the Piraeus Container Terminal (PCT) near Athens, part of which is operated by China's state-owned shipping giant COSCO under a 35-year lease signed in 2009.
It was the first time a Chinese firm had been granted operation rights to an overseas port. The most recent statistics show the port's annual handling capacity surged from 685,000 TEUs in 2010 to 2.52 million last year.
Experts said the PCT has brought benefits to local people by attracting investment and creating jobs, and it is also a successful case of Chinese enterprises "going abroad," enhancing their international competitiveness and boosting exports.
Calling PCT a paradigm of China-Greece cooperation, Ambassador Zou said the two countries will give priority to their cooperation in logistics, rail-sea and rail-air intermodal transport based on the development of the Piraeus port.
During the visit, Li will also attend a forum on the maritime cooperation between China and Greece and deliver a speech to expound China's views on maritime issues.