Chinese President Xi Jinping met with Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas in Beijing on Monday, with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu due to follow him later this week.
Abbas’s three-day trip — the first by a Middle Eastern leader since Xi took office in March — ends Tuesday, overlapping with a five-day visit to China by Netanyahu that began in Shanghai on Monday and will end in the capital.
Chinese state-run media have called Abbas’ trip a state visit, while officials described Netanyahu’s as an “official visit”.
Beijing has traditionally remained distant from Middle Eastern affairs, though in recent years it has begun to take a more active diplomatic role.
After a full military welcome ceremony outside the Great Hall of the People, Xi told Abbas he had “maintained the strategic choice of peace” and helped “building a country which has received the wide respect and support of the Palestinian people and international society”.
Abbas said: “I appreciate China’s high position in the world nowadays. In recent years all the Chinese governments have adopted wise policies that have effectively had benefits and avoided harm”.
The two sides signed cooperation agreements on economic technical cooperation and cultural exchange, details of which were not immediately available.
Ahead of his visit, Abbas told China’s state news agency Xinhua that he planned to discuss obstacles to Israeli-Palestinian talks and ask Beijing to urge Israel to end policies that obstructed the Palestinian economy.
During his meetings Netanyahu is expected to seek greater Chinese backing for tougher sanctions against Iran in an attempt to slow its atomic programme, which Israel and Western states suspect is aimed at developing nuclear weapons.
A spokesman for the Israeli embassy in Beijing said that Netanyahu had arrived and begun his official meetings on Monday, without giving details.