CAIRO, Jan. 22 (Xinhua) -- Chinese President Xi Jinping wrapped up his first state visit to Egypt on Friday afternoon, injecting fresh impetus to the development of the comprehensive strategic partnership between the two countries.
During his stay in Cairo, Xi also visited the Arab League (AL) headquarters on Thursday, where he said enhancing dialogue is the key to addressing differences in the Middle East, pledging further aid for regional development.
NEW STARTING POINT FOR CHINA-EGYPT PARTNERSHIP
Xi's Egypt tour is the first by a Chinese head of state in 12 years which came as the two countries celebrate the 60th anniversary of the establishment of their diplomatic ties.
In a gesture of hospitality, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi sent eight fighter jets to escort Xi's plane when it entered the Arab country's airspace. The president himself was also at the airport to receive Xi.
Egypt is the second stop of Xi's three-nation Middle East tour, which also covers Saudi Arabia and Iran.
"China attaches great importance to the development of its relationship with Egypt," Xi said during his talks with al-Sisi on Thursday, saying that the friendly ties between the two countries have weathered the changing international landscapes and domestic ups and downs over the past six decades.
China and Egypt established diplomatic relations in May 1956 and upgraded their ties to a comprehensive strategic partnership in December 2014.
During Xi's visit, the two sides signed a five-year outline document to further advance their relationship.
According to the 18-page document, the two countries will boost their cooperation in political, trade and economic, military and security, science and technology, cultural, environmental and agricultural, energy, medical and law-enforcement domains as well as global and regional affairs.
"China will continue to view and develop its relations with Egypt from a strategic and long-term perspective," Xi said in an article published on the Egyptian newspaper Al-Ahram ahead of his visit.
The Chinese president said he will work together with his Egyptian counterpart to comprehensively deepen political trust and strategic cooperation for common development and progress and strengthen the exemplary role of China-Egypt relations in South-South cooperation.
Liu Baolai, a former Chinese diplomat, hailed Xi's visit as a "milestone" for the relationship between China and Egypt.
"Egypt is an important country in the Middle East, and the new government led by President al-Sisi has taken measures to better people's livelihood," Liu said, adding that Xi's visit will strongly bolster the partnership and friendly cooperation between the two nations.
EGYPT AS PIVOT ALONG SILK ROADS
During their talks, the two leaders reached extensive consensus on jointly implementing the Belt and Road Initiative, a vision put forward by Xi in 2013 to promote common development along the historical land and maritime Silk Roads.
Xi suggested that the two countries work together to build the Arab nation into a pivot along the Belt and Road.
To that end, Xi said, China and Egypt should align their development plans and focus on cooperation in infrastructure and production capacity.
Egypt stands ready to connect its own development plans with the Belt and Road Initiative and expand infrastructure cooperation with China within the framework of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, al-Sisi said, calling for more Chinese investment in his country.
Xi pledged that China will participate in Egypt's key projects including the development of the Suez Canal Corridor and the construction of a new administrative capital.
According to the five-year outline document, the two sides will "double their efforts" to develop the China-Egypt Suez Economic and Trade Cooperation Zone.
The two sides will continue to encourage Chinese companies, especially those from China's competitive sectors such as textile and steel, to invest in the zone and other places, said the document.
The cooperation zone is located near the Suez Canal. The first phase of the zone, covering an area of 1.34 square km, has been basically completed, while a second phase is expected to draw an investment of about 500 million U.S. dollars for development and construction, according to a joint venture operator of the zone.
Xi attended an inauguration ceremony of the second phase of the zone on Thursday, saying that the project will bring to Egypt over 100 companies in such sectors as textile, garment, oil equipment, motorcycle and solar energy, and create more than 10,000 jobs for Egypt.
The document said that China will, within its capacity, conduct financing cooperation with Egypt in support of Belt and Road projects.
During Xi's visit, China and Egypt signed a memorandum of understanding on jointly implementing the Belt and Road Initiative as well as a number of other cooperation agreements covering areas such as electricity, space, infrastructure, trade, energy, finance, culture, media, technology and climate change.
The deals are worth 15 billion dollars, said Egyptian media Al-Ahram online, quoting Minister of International Cooperation Sahar Nasr.
"[President Xi's] visit is historic for many reasons, especially on the economic side," said Alaa Hayder, head of Egypt's official news agency MENA.
"There should be integration between the Suez corridor and the Silk Roads," Hayder added.
"China's participation in the construction of the Suez Canal Corridor and the new administrative capital will help spur the Egyptian economy and shore up international confidence in Egypt," said Li Guofu, director of Middle East studies at the China Institute of International Studies.
PEACE THROUGH DIALOGUE, AID TO ARAB DEVELOPMENT
On Thursday, Xi delivered a speech at the AL headquarters in Cairo, stressing the importance of enhancing dialogue to restore peace in the Middle East while announcing further aid to the Arab world.
"The key to addressing differences is to enhance dialogue," Xi said, adding that use of force offers no solution to problems, neither will zero-sum mentality bring enduring peace.
"The international community should respect the will and role of those directly involved, the neighboring countries and regional organizations, instead of imposing a solution from outside," Xi said, noting that there is a need for utmost patience and flexibility for dialogue to succeed.
The Chinese president announced further aid to the Arab world, saying that promoting development is the key to overcome difficulties.
According to Xi, China is going to offer a number of loan programs, including 15 billion dollars of exclusive loans in support of industrialization in the Middle East through industrial capacity and infrastructure cooperation. It will also offer 10 billion dollars of commercial lending to facilitate production capacity cooperation with Middle East countries.
China will also provide 10 billion dollars of concessional loans with even more favorable terms for regional countries and launch joint investment funds with the United Arab Emirates and Qatar worth a total of 20 billion dollars to primarily invest in traditional energy, infrastructure and high-end manufacturing in the Middle East, said Xi in his speech.
"China is an important economic partner to Arab states and Xi's speech shows China's keenness on achieving security and stability in the Arab world," said Mahmoud Allam, former Egyptian Ambassador to China.
"His speech is totally different from those we used to hear from the West," said Ahmed Eliba, a researcher at the Regional Center for Strategic Studies.
"Now China is offering a third way that seeks peace and security through development and balanced political relationships that are based on common interests," Eliba said.
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