TEHRAN, Jan. 22, 2016 (Xinhua) -- Chinese President Xi Jinping (front, L) is welcomed by Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (front, R) in Tehran, Iran, Jan. 22, 2016. Xi Jinping arrived in Tehran Friday night for a state visit to Iran. (Xinhua/Rao Aimin)
TEHRAN, Jan. 22 (Xinhua) -- Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived here Friday night for a state visit to Iran aimed at further boosting the traditional friendship and economic engagement between the two countries.
Xi's visit comes days after West-led sanctions on Iran were lifted following an announcement by the International Atomic Energy Agency confirming that Tehran had scaled back its nuclear program. China played a constructive role in prior negotiations.
It is the first state visit in 14 years by a Chinese head of state to Iran, and also Xi's first trip to the ancient country, whose friendship with China dates back to 2,000 years ago thanks to the Silk Road.
Both as ancient civilizations, China and Iran boast long history and splendid culture and have made important contribution to human progress, Xi said in written remarks upon arrival.
"Currently, China and Iran are faced with new development opportunities in their relations," Xi said. "China stands ready to work with Iran to seize the momentum and further elevate our relationship and practical cooperation, so as to usher in a new chapter for our ties featuring comprehensive, long-term and stable development."
Xi added that he looks forward to having an in-depth exchange of views with Iranian leaders on bilateral relations as well as global and regional issues of mutual concern, and working with them to formulate an ambitious blueprint for China-Iran cooperation and further deepen the friendship between the two nations.
The Chinese president will meet his Iranian counterpart, Hassan Rouhani, on Saturday for discussions on aligning their national development strategies and boosting cooperation on both political and economic fronts.
During Xi's visit, the two countries are expected to lift their ties to a comprehensive strategic partnership.
Xi and Rouhani have met each other on multiple occasions over recent years. Rouhani paid a state visit to China in May 2014.
Xi is also scheduled to meet Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei during his stay in Tehran.
The two countries established diplomatic ties in 1971, and their relationship has since enjoyed sound and steady development.
Two-way trade jumped from tens of millions of U.S. dollars in 1970s to 51.8 billion dollars in 2014, and China has been Iran's biggest trading partner for six consecutive years.
Xi's visit, Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Ming told reporters earlier this week, "will be a milestone that will usher in a new era of bilateral ties featuring comprehensive, long-term and stable development."
In an interview with Xinhua ahead of Xi's visit, Pang Sen, China's ambassador to Iran, pointed out that China and Iran, sharing a traditional friendship, neither have any problems left over from history nor have conflicts of interests in present days.
"To develop our friendly cooperative relationship is not only in line with the fundamental interests of both countries and peoples, but also conducive to the regional peace, stability and prosperity," he added.
Xi will conclude on Saturday night his five-day, three-nation tour of the Middle East, which has already taken him to Saudi Arabia and Egypt. It is Xi's first overseas visit this year and also his first trip to the region since he became Chinese president in 2013.
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