Peres meets with his Chinese counterpart in Beijing

During three-day visit, president pushing for more trade; Xi Jinping says he ‘fully understands’ security concerns on Iran

Marissa Newman is The Times of Israel political correspondent.

President Shimon Peres meets with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing, China on Tuesday, April 8, 2014. (photo credit: Amos Ben Gershom/GPO/Flash 90)
President Shimon Peres meets with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing, China on Tuesday, April 8, 2014. (photo credit: Amos Ben Gershom/GPO/Flash 90)

China is well aware of Israel’s concerns with the Iranian nuclear program, and will continue to support the internationally brokered nuclear negotiations to prevent the Islamic Republic from acquiring weapons, Chinese President Xi Jinping told President Shimon Peres Tuesday.

Peres arrived in Beijing Tuesday for a three-day visit aimed at bolstering economic and diplomatic ties between the two countries, as well as reinforcing the mutual commitment to combat the spread of non-conventional weapons in the Middle East.

Following a two-hour meeting between the two presidents, Xi said he fully understands Israel’s security concerns with regard to Iran.

China, a major customer of the Iranian oil industry, has been a staunch backer of Tehran and has resisted efforts to impose heavier sanctions on the regime, receiving waivers from the US to continue dealing with the Islamic Republic. China is a member of the P5+1, the five permanent security council members plus Germany, who have been in talks with Iran in an attempt to broker a nuclear agreement.

A day before Peres met with Xi in Beijing, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Morteza Sarmadi met with outgoing Chinese Ambassador Yu Hongyang, to confer about stronger economic ties, the semi-official Fars News Agency reported.

“China attaches a lot of importance to the reinforcement of ties with Iran as an important and trustworthy partner,” Yu said.

“There are vast potentials for continuing the upward trend of the two countries’ ties in all the various fields,” he added.

The two presidents also discussed the collapsing Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, with Peres reaffirming his commitment to the negotiations, and urging their reinstatement.

“China can be a major player in strengthening stability and promoting peace in the Middle East,” he said.

The trip marks “an extremely important visit for the State of Israel,” Peres said in a statement prior to his departure.

“China is both a regional and a global power and relations between us have strategic significance,” he said. “In terms of the diplomatic aspects there are issues of critical importance on the agenda. China is increasing its interest in the Middle East and we have a mutual interest to promote peace and stability, to tackle the scourge of terrorism and the proliferation of non-conventional weapons.”

The president is slated to conduct meetings with Chairperson of the National People’s Congress Zhang Dejiang and attend a special ceremony with CEOs of China’s top technology companies in the Forbidden City, to encourage investments and collaboration between companies in the two countries.

Last December, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi visited Jerusalem. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Wang and emphasized the various potential trade collaborations between China and Israel, including in high-tech, irrigation, agriculture, green energy, and health services.

Netanyahu has made relations with China a priority. Last May, he led a large delegation to China, meeting with top political and business officials and agreeing with his counterparts to establish a “task force” to improve trade ties.

In broad terms, Israel is a tiny trade partner for China. Bilateral trade is expected to be about $8 billion this year, compared to $6.7 billion in 2010, according to the Israeli Foreign Ministry.

But China is interested in many technologies where Israel is considered a world leader, such as water recycling, desalination, agriculture and health and medicine, providing great potential for Israeli companies.

Netanyahu has reportedly sought to keep the focus of the visits on trade relations, while the Chinese are seeking a greater diplomatic role in the region, especially concerning Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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