Tue, Jan 24, 2006 - Page 11 News List

China and Saudi Arabia sign historic energy deal

CO-OPERATION King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia and Chinese President Hu Jintao ushered in a new period of closer ties between their nations yesterday


China and Saudi Arabia signed an energy cooperation agreement yesterday during a landmark visit by Saudi King Abdullah that both sides said would usher in an era of closer economic ties.

King Abdullah, who arrived on Sunday on his first trip outside the Middle East since taking the throne in August, met Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) yesterday at the Great Hall of the People.

King Abdullah and Hu oversaw the signing of five agreements, including one on "oil, natural gas and mineral cooperation," and another on "economic, trade and technical cooperation."

Agreements were also signed to "avoid dual taxation", allow for a Saudi loan to improve infrastructure in the city of Aksu in China's oil-rich Xinjiang region, and to facilitate "cooperating in vocational training."

Neither side immediately provided further details of the agreements, although Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal spelt out before the signing ceremonies the main interest of both nations.

"China is one of the most important markets for oil and Saudi oil is one of the most important sources of energy for China," said the prince, who is accompanying the king.

Prince Saud said the energy deal would set the framework for specific energy investments, but agreements on the projects would have to be signed between the two countries' oil companies.

He also suggested specific agreements could be signed soon.

The visit by the Saudi king comes at a time when China, the world's second biggest oil consumer, is scouring the globe for more oil to fuel its unprecedented economic transformation.

At the same time, Saudi Arabia, the world's biggest oil supplier with the largest known reserves, is seeking to diversify its economy and ease its dependence on the US, the biggest oil consumer.

At the welcoming ceremony, Hu said the fact that King Abdullah had chosen China as the first destination of his first official trip outside the Middle East since ascending the throne had been noted and welcomed in Beijing.

"This will write a new chapter of friendly cooperation between China and Saudi Arabia in the new century," Hu said, who called the king "a respected and familiar old friend" of China.

King Abdullah, who is making the first visit by a Saudi leader to China since the two nations established diplomatic ties 16 years ago, also said he looked forward to stronger bilateral ties.

"What makes us happy is that since the two countries established diplomatic relations in 1990 our two countries have had fruitful cooperation in many fields," he said.

"We hope this cooperation will develop even more in the future."

Analysts said King Abdullah's choice of China as the first country of his Asian tour, which will also take in India, Malaysia and Pakistan, was a strategically sound move.

"China has the fastest growing market and Saudi Arabia has the right product to sell," said a Hong Kong-based oil analyst who requested anonymity.

Shi Yinhong (石印紅), an international relations professor at People's University in Beijing, said China had "a very focused interest in Saudi Arabia."

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