Sat, Jan 23, 2016 - Page 1 News List

Xi Jinping signing billion-dollar deals on Middle East tour

AFP, CAIRO

Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) on Thursday announced billions of US dollars in special loans and investments in the Middle East as Beijing seeks to boost its economic ties and clout in the region.

Xi offered China’s financial support in an address to the Cairo-based Arab League after holding talks with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi during his first tour to the Middle East as president.

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

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

“China will offer US$15 billion as special loans for industrial projects in the Middle East,” he told the Arab League.

Another US$10 billion would be provided as commercial loans to boost cooperation in the energy sector and an equivalent amount is to be offered as preferential loans, he said.

Xi also announced the establishment of a common investment fund worth US$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 that 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.

“We are not setting up proxies or building a sphere of influence in the region,” Xi told the Arab League.

Xi signed a slew of separate agreements with Cairo to undertake projects in sectors like electricity, transportation and infrastructure.

“The total investments in these projects would be US$15 billion. These projects will offer a new impetus to the economic development of Egypt,” he said in a joint statement with al-Sisi.

Al-Sisi said the agreements were the “best evidence of the two countries’ determination to improve their levels of cooperation.”

In an article in state-run newspaper al-Ahram ahead of his visit, Xi expressed China’s backing for Egypt running its affairs without outside interference.

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