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Syria’s Assad to Meet Xi on First China Visit in Nearly 20 Years

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad arrived in China on Thursday for the first time since the start of the 12-year Syrian conflict during which Beijing has been one of his main supporters.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry said Assad would attend the opening ceremony of the Asian Games, an international sporting event starting Saturday in Hangzhou in the eastern part China.

China brokered an agreement between Saudi Arabia and Iran in March and continues to support Assad in the Syrian conflict, which has killed half a million people and left much of the country in ruins, according to The Associated Press. However, China’s role in the conflict has allowed it to gradually expand its influence in the Middle East.

In the future, China will be able to make a huge contribution to Syria’s reconstruction, which is expected to cost tens of billions of dollars. Last year, Syria joined China’s Belt and Road Initiative. Under this initiative, Beijing is expanding its influence in developing regions through infrastructure projects.

Earlier, Assad’s office said that Chinese President Xi Jinping had invited the Syrian leader. Assad plans to come accompanied by a high-ranking Syrian delegation.

As the economic situation in Syria worsened, mass protests erupted in government-controlled parts of the country. Syria blames the crisis on Western sanctions and US-backed Kurdish militants who control major oil fields in the east of the country near the border with Iraq. Syria blames the crisis on Western sanctions and US-backed Kurdish militants who control major oil fields in the east of the country near the border with Iraq.

Diplomatic contacts between Syria and other Arab countries became active after the 6 February earthquake in Turkey and Syria. The earthquake killed more than 50,000 people, including more than 6,000 in Syria. In May, Assad visited Saudi Arabia, where he attended an Arab League summit, days after Syria was reinstated as a member of the 22-member League.

Since pro-democracy protests began in Syria in March 2011 and escalated into civil war, Iran and Russia have helped Assad to regain control of much of the country.

China has used its veto power at the UN eight times to stop resolutions against Assad’s government, the latest in July 2020.

The last and only time Assad visited China was in 2004, a year after the US invasion of neighbouring Iraq and at a time when the US was putting pressure on Syria.

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