Chinese leader calls for Palestinian state with East Jerusalem capital

Xi Jinping, on tour of the region that includes Iran visit, tells Arab League that China supports peace process

Chinese President Xi Jinping addresses members of the Arab League in Cairo, Egypt, on January 21, 2016. (AFP/STR)
Chinese President Xi Jinping addresses members of the Arab League in Cairo, Egypt, on January 21, 2016. (AFP/STR)

Chinese President Xi Jinping called on Thursday for the establishment of a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital.

Speaking to the Arab League in Cairo while on a tour of the region, Xi said China supports the peace process in the Middle East and backs a Palestinian state along the pre-1967 lines with Israel.

Xi also said his country would provide $7.6 million to the Palestinians in support of a new solar power project.

He announced billions of dollars in special loans and investments in the Middle East, as Beijing seeks to boost its economic ties and clout in the region.

Xi arrived in Cairo late Wednesday from Saudi Arabia and will travel on Friday to Iran, the last leg of his three-nation tour.

He offered $55 billion in loans and investments to the Middle East.

“China will offer $15 billion as special loans for industrial projects in the Middle East,” he told the Arab League. Another $10 billion would be provided as commercial loans to boost cooperation in the energy sector and an equivalent amount will be offered as preferential loans, he said. Xi also announced the establishment of a common investment fund worth $20 billion for Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.

Beijing has long taken a backseat to other diplomatic players in the Middle East, but analysts say the region is crucial to Xi’s signature foreign policy initiative — known as “One Belt One Road” — touted as a revival of ancient Silk Road trade routes.

China, the world’s second-largest economy, also relies heavily on oil and gas imported from the energy-rich Middle East.

Later Thursday, Xi visited Saudi Arabia, where he met with King Salman and oversaw the opening of a joint-venture oil refinery in the Yanbu Industrial City on the Red Sea.

Saudi Arabia is China’s biggest global supplier of crude.

Few details have emerged of Xi’s talks with leaders in Riyadh, but late on Wednesday the Saudi Press Agency reported that the two countries decided to establish a “comprehensive strategic partnership.”

During his visit to Riyadh, Xi had been expected to seek to ease tensions between Saudi Arabia, the region’s main Sunni power, and Shiite rival Iran.

Xi was also expected in Iran, just days after sanctions were lifted when Tehran implemented its historic nuclear deal with world powers.

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