China welcomes and appreciates the decision by the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) to accept it as an observer, said Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing in New Delhi Tuesday.
"As close neighbors, China and SAARC countries enjoy deep traditional friendship and there is a strong foundation for advancing our cooperation," Li said at the opening session of the 14th SAARC summit.
"We all belong to the developing world, are experiencing fast growth and facing historic opportunities of development. Good political atmosphere, close geographical location and popular support will greatly boost China-SAARC cooperation, which serves our common interests and peace, stability and development of the region," he said.
The Chinese government follows a policy of building friendship and partnership with its neighbors, Li told the delegates, saying that China, which is committed to regional cooperation, follows closely and supports the SAARC cooperation process.
"A peaceful, stable and prosperous South Asia and a SAARC of unity, cooperation and progress are in the interests of all countries in the region and China," he said. "As the biggest neighbor of South Asia, China hopes that all South Asian countries will live in harmony and pursue common development and that SAARC will grow from strength to strength and play a bigger role in regional and world affairs."
During the two-day summit hosted by India in its capital, eight SAARC countries will discuss major peace and development issues including anti-terrorism, poverty alleviation and intra-regional free trade.
SAARC, comprising of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka, was established in 1985.
It is the first time in the SAARC history for China, the EU, Japan, South Korea, and the US to attend the summit as observers.
(Xinhua News Agency April 3, 2007)