http://www.arabnews .com/?page= 1§ion= 0&article= 119124&d= 11&m=2&y= 2009&pix= kingdom.jpg& category= Kingdom
Wednesday 11 February 2009 (16 Safar 1430)
China to build Makkah monorail
Ghazanfar Ali Khan | Arab News
Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah receives Chinese President Hu Jintao at the Riyadh airbase on Tuesday. The children accompanying the president are survivors of a devastating earthquake that hit China last year. (SPA)
RIYADH: Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah held wide-ranging talks with Chinese President Hu Jintao, who arrived here yesterday with a mission to strengthen strategic ties between Riyadh and Beijing, especially in the oil and petrochemical sector. The Kingdom and China later signed five bilateral agreements.
During the meeting, King Abdullah highlighted the strong friendly relations between the two countries and peoples. He expressed his desire to further strengthen Saudi-Sino relations. "China was the first country I visited after becoming the king," Abdullah told the Chinese president.
On his part, Hu commended King Abdullah's efforts to strengthen relations. "We appreciate the continuous contacts between leaders and officials of the two countries," he added. The two leaders called for a just and comprehensive Middle East peace settlement that would ensure the Palestinians an independent state.
King Abdullah received Hu at the Riyadh airbase, where a number of high-ranking Saudi officials including Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal also greeted the visiting Chinese president.
The agreements signed yesterday included cooperation in oil, gas and mining; in the field of health; on quality inspection and standards of goods and services; an MOU to set up a chapter of King Abdulaziz Public Library in China and the Makkah railway project.
The agreement on the Makkah monorail project was signed by Prince Miteb, minister of municipal and rural affairs, with China Railway Company. The project will link the holy sites of Makkah, Mina, Arafat and Muzdalifah.
It will cost SR6.65 billion and will be implemented in two years. Thirty-five percent of the project's capacity would be used during the Haj of 1431H and full capacity by the Haj of 1433H.
The agreements were signed in the presence of King Abdullah and Hu.
Diplomatic sources said Hu would meet with Secretary-General of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Abdul Rahman Al-Attiyah today to discuss cooperation between China and GCC member states.
The talks and the dinner banquet hosted in honor of Hu were attended by several members of the royal family and high-ranking Saudi and Chinese officials, including Prince Abdul Rahman, deputy minister of defense and aviation; Prince Miteb; Prince Saud Al-Faisal; Prince Abdul-Ilah, adviser to the king; and Prince Muqrin, chief of General Intelligence.
On the sidelines of the summit-level meeting, senior Saudi and Chinese officials held talks with a focus on trade and investment relations with special reference to new markets for Chinese goods and workers.
Hu's entourage includes more than 125 high-ranking Chinese officials and businessmen including Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi, Minister of Commerce Chen Deming and Minister in charge of the National Development and Reform Commission Zhang Ping. "The visit of President Hu Jintao shows the great importance the Chinese leaders attach to the Sino-Saudi relations," said Chinese Ambassador Yang Honglin.
In a statement, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Jiang Yu said that Beijing was interested in strengthening energy ties with Saudi Arabia.
"We value the role it plays and look forward to strengthening cooperation in this field," Jiang said. "Trade with Saudi Arabia has more than doubled since 2005, rising 65 percent last year alone."
China's economic growth has pushed up its demand for oil and raised the importance of the relationship between the two countries.
At the airport reception, King Abdullah was introduced by the Chinese president to 12 schoolchildren, survivors of the May 2008 earthquake in Sichuan province that killed or left missing 87,000 people. The children offered the king their thanks for the Saudi donations in support of the victims.
During his three-day trip, Hu would visit a cement production project constructed by Chinese companies in Riyadh.
More than half of China's oil exports come from the Gulf, mainly from Saudi Arabia, which exported 36 million tons of oil to China in 2008. Oil and oil products dominate bilateral trade worth about $42 billion.