Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert arrived in Beijing today, starting a three-day visit to commemorate the 15th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Israel and to promote bilateral trade ties.
During his first visit to China since taking office last May, he will meet with Premier Wen Jiabao tomorrow and President Hu Jintao on Thursday.
Leaders of both countries will explore avenues for promoting bilateral relations and discuss regional and global issues of mutual concern.
"In particular, Prime Minister Olmert will raise with his Chinese hosts the importance for international peace and stability, and of a resolute and effective international response to the nuclear ambitions of Iran and its radical leadership," said Nadav Eschcar, spokesman for the Israeli Embassy in Beijing.
Olmert's trip to Beijing is the final leg of his visit to all five permanent members of the UN Security Council to discuss Iran's nuclear issue and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Yin Gang, a senior Middle East researcher with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said the Jewish state places high value in relations with Beijing and wishes to spell out its concerns over a nuclear Iran.
Olmert's trip comes on the heels of a visit to Beijing by Iran's top nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani.
China's effort to promote an Israeli-Palestinian dialogue is also high on Olmert's agenda.
Speaking to Xinhua News Agency ahead of his trip, Olmert welcomed China's increasing participation in the Middle East peace process and expected its influence to strengthen peace and stability in the region.
Calling China an important country that plays a significant role in regional and global issues, Olmert said "anything China can contribute to facilitate the political dialogue is something Israel will always welcome."
Yin added that China's position on the Middle East issue has been clear-cut over the last year, being similar in nature with other major countries.
"Israel understands that China keeps close ties with the Arabic countries and is hoping China plays a more active role in the region's affairs," Yin said.
Israeli and Palestinian representatives met in Beijing for a seminar on the Middle East peace process last month. This was the first non-governmental seminar of this kind ever initiated on this issue by China.
Olmert's China visit is the third by an Israeli prime minister since the two countries established diplomatic ties, and the first by an Israeli prime minister in nine years.
According to Olmert's spokeswoman Miri Eisin, Olmert will explore ways to further expand Sino-Israeli trade relations to US$6 billion by 2008, up from US$4 billion last year.
China's ambassador to Israel, Chen Yonglong, said China was interested in Israel's expertise in technology and agriculture.
Israeli scientists and entrepreneurs have met with great agricultural success in China and Olmert is scheduled to pay a visit today to a model farm set up by Israelis in the suburbs of the capital.
He will also attend a cornerstone-laying ceremony of the China-Israel Cooperation Center for Modern Dairy Technology and visit the construction site of the Beijing Olympics.
(China Daily January 9, 2007)