Addressing the opening ceremony of the Sino-Arab Cooperation Forum's first ministerial meeting in Cairo on Tuesday, Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing said that the Arab world is an important force in the international arena, and that China and Arab countries enjoy a time-honored friendship.
"Similar histories, common objectives and wide-ranging shared interests have enabled the two sides to strengthen cooperation," he said. "No matter how the international situation changes, China has always been the sincere friend of the Arab world."
The Sino-Arab Cooperation Forum was formally established during President Hu Jintao's visit to the League of Arab States headquarters in January 2004. Hu noted at the time that the formation of the forum was a continuation of the traditional friendship between China and the Arab world and an important move to promote bilateral ties under new circumstances.
Li stated that the establishment of the forum would be conducive to expanding mutually beneficial cooperation in a variety of areas.
"China has submitted four proposals. First, maintaining mutual respect, equitable treatment and sincere cooperation on the political front. Second, promoting economic and trade ties through cooperation in investment, trade, contracted projects, labor service, energy, transportation, telecommunications, agriculture, environmental protection and information. Third, expanding cultural exchanges. Finally, conducting personnel training," he said.
Arab foreign ministers attending the meeting agreed that the formal inauguration of the forum was a significant event in the history of Arab ties with China. They submitted a variety of proposals on promoting Sino-Arab friendship and cooperation.
At the conclusion of the meeting, Li and Arab League Secretary General Amre Moussa signed a declaration and an action plan for the forum.
Li arrived in Cairo on Sunday evening for a three-day visit to Egypt, the last leg of a Middle East tour that has taken him to Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Oman.
(Xinhua News Agency September 15, 2004)