Afghan President Hamid Karzai said Tuesday that his country and China are "very good neighbors" and hopes to strengthen trade relations with China.
He made the remarks in an exclusive interview with Xinhua before his departure for Shanghai to attend the 2006 summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) on Thursday and pay his second official visit to China on June 18-21.
Afghanistan and China are "very good neighbors, very good friends," said the Afghan president.
"Relations with China have immense importance for Afghanistan," he said. "During this visit, I would like to strengthen, deepen and enhance Afghanistan's relationship with China in many fields of strategic importance."
China is one of Afghanistan's major trade partners, with China's export volume to Afghanistan totaling US$317 million in the Afghan 2005-2006 fiscal year, taking the third place after Japan and Pakistan.
However, Afghanistan's export to China is very limited, with a volume of US$0.9 million in the 2005-2006 year.
Karzai said, "We would like to export more goods to China, which is a huge, huge, huge market."
Afghanistan, which shares a 76-km-long border with China, would benefit from China's growing economic strength, he added.
He said, "Afghanistan belongs to the region where also lies the SCO. Afghanistan has no other ways, and can't be outside the region."
The SCO, which was established in 2001, groups China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. It has accepted India, Iran, Mongolia and Pakistan at observers.
(Xinhua News Agency June 14, 2006)