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Deepen Strategic Cooperation and Promote Common Development

Keynote Speech by Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi
At the Opening Session of the Fifth Ministerial Conference of the
China-Arab States Cooperation Forum

Hammamet, 31 May 2012

Your Excellency Rafik Abdessalem, Foreign Minister of Tunisia,
Your Excellency Nabil El Araby, Secretary General of the League of Arab States,
Arab Colleagues,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Dear Friends,

Today we are meeting here at the beautiful coastal city of Hammamet for the fifth Ministerial Conference of the China-Arab States Cooperation Forum (CASCF), another important event in the friendly relations between China and Arab states. I want to extend, on behalf of the Chinese government, warm congratulations on the opening of the conference, pay high tribute to Arab colleagues for their dedication to promoting China-Arab relations and building the CASCF over the years, and express sincere appreciation to the Republic of Tunisia for hosting the conference. I wish to thank President Moncef Marzouki in particular for attending the opening session and addressing the conference. It fully testifies to the great importance that Tunisia attaches to this conference.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
Dear Friends,

Since its establishment in 2004, the CASCF has become an important platform for dialogue and cooperation between China and Arab states in the new era. This conference is of high and far-reaching significance as it is the first ministerial conference after the launch of the China-Arab strategic relationship of cooperation at the last Ministerial Conference in 2010 as well as the first one in the second decade of the 21st century. It provides the opportunity to review the progress and experience of China-Arab cooperation in various fields over the past two years and make plans for deepening our strategic cooperation and promoting common development so as to push forward the China-Arab strategic relationship of cooperation.

In the past two years, the Declaration and Action Plan adopted at the fourth Ministerial Conference have been implemented in a faithful, pragmatic and efficient manner, producing fruitful results as follows:

The past two years saw the consolidation of the political relations between China and Arab states. The two sides promoted China-Arab relations from a historical and long-term perspective and maintained close exchanges at various levels. The role of political consultation and liaison mechanisms was brought out fully and the eighth Senior Officials' Meeting was held successfully in Qatar in May last year. China and Arab states have been staunch supporters for each other's major interests and core concerns, and maintained close communication and coordination in international and regional affairs. Together, we have made positive contribution to peace, stability and development in the region and the world.

The past two years saw strong growth of economic cooperation and trade between China and Arab states. The two sides held a number of activities under the CASCF framework, including the China-Arab Business Conference and Investment Seminar and the China-Arab Energy Cooperation Conference. Despite the dual challenges of the international financial crisis and dramatic change in the regional situation, China-Arab trade still enjoyed strong growth and reached nearly US$200 billion at the end of 2011. Arab states have become China's seventh largest trading partner while China is a main trading partner of the majority of Arab countries. Mutual investment kept growing. Investment cooperation in infrastructure, energy and finance continued to expand. China has trained 1,000 professionals from Arab countries annually, as it committed to do in the Action Plan for 2010-2012.

The past two years saw colorful cultural and people-to-people exchanges between China and Arab states. Under the CASCF framework, the two sides held the second Arab Arts Festival and Chinese Arts Festival, the third China-Arab Friendship Conference, the fourth Seminar on China-Arab Relations and Dialogue Between Civilizations and the third China-Arab News Media Cooperation Forum. These activities increased the mutual understanding between the Chinese and Arab peoples.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
Dear Friends,

The situation in the Middle East is undergoing profound changes. China respects and supports Arab states in independently handling their internal affairs and respects Arab people's will and aspiration for change and development. We hope that the relevant parties will address their differences through political dialogue, seek inclusive and peaceful solutions to various problems and appropriately handle the relationship between reform, stability and development. China calls on the international community to work with regional countries to respect the principles of the UN Charter and norms governing international relations and play a positive and constructive role in easing regional tensions.

In responding to the changes in the Middle East, China has pursued a policy that is aimed at maintaining regional peace and stability and upholding the fundamental and long-term interests of Arab countries as well as China-Arab friendship. China does not have selfish interests in handling issues concerning the region. We take the positions and concerns of Arab states seriously and stand ready to stay in close communication and coordination with our Arab friends in the spirit of seeking common ground while reserving differences so as to uphold our common interests.

China believes that the evolving situation in the Middle East should not become an excuse for the international community to neglect the Palestinian issue. Long stalemate in the Middle East peace process is not conducive to peace and stability in the region. No matter how the international and regional situation may change, China will continue to firmly support the just cause of the Arab people, the establishment of an independent Palestinian state that enjoys full sovereignty with East Jerusalem as its capital, and Palestine's membership in the United Nations. China calls on Israel to release Palestinian detainees and improve the living and medical conditions of those still in detention.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
Dear Friends,

Looking ahead at the second decade of the 21st century, the trends towards a multi-polar world, a globalized economy and wider application of information technology will remain strong. The international strategic and security architecture and international order will undergo change. It will not be a smooth path to achieve strong, balanced and sustainable growth of the world economy. The tasks of maintaining peace and promoting development have become more pressing for China and Arab states. To grow the China-Arab strategic relationship of cooperation, we need to redouble our efforts under the following two themes.

First, deepen strategic cooperation. We should maintain contacts at various levels, expand exchanges in various areas, and build long-term strategic trust based on our historical ties. We should firmly support each other's core interests and major concerns, enhance communication and coordination on regional and global issues, and work together to meet traditional and non-traditional security challenges. We should carry forward China-Arab traditional friendship, promote exchanges and mutual learning between different civilizations, and join hands to build a harmonious world of durable peace.

Second, promote common development. We should draw on each other's strengths and step up cooperation in such priority areas as trade, investment, infrastructure and energy. We should actively shift the economic growth model and strive to realize sustainable and inclusive growth. We should advance reform of the international economic and financial systems, endeavor to attain the Millennium Development Goals, and join hands to build a harmonious world of common prosperity.

To meet these objectives, China has the following proposals for the development of the CASCF in the coming two years.

First, we should make the most of CASCF mechanisms to strengthen solidarity. As the international and regional situation is still undergoing complex change and the content and extension of China-Arab cooperation continues to expand, it is all the more urgent for us to enhance communication and coordination. We should give full play to the role of political consultation and liaison mechanisms of the CASCF, particularly political consultations of the Senior Officials' Meeting, so as to forge consensus and safeguard solidarity.

Second, we should establish platforms to pool resources. We should make the following events within the CASCF framework a great success: the fifth Business Conference and the third Investment Seminar, the third China-Arab Energy Cooperation Conference, the fifth China-Arab Arts Festival, the fifth Seminar on China-Arab Relations and Dialogue Between Civilizations, the fourth News Media Cooperation Forum, and the fourth China-Arab Friendship Conference. This will help mobilize more resources for the further development of China-Arab relations.

Third, we should give priority to people's wellbeing and bring benefits to the general public. The ultimate goal of CASCF's institution-building is to let the people in China and Arab states enjoy the fruits of our cooperation. We should enable our peoples to get more tangible benefits through specific cooperation projects in a wide array of areas, including economy and trade, energy, education, science and technology, health, agriculture, quality inspection, human resources, environmental protection, tourism, press, culture and sports.

Fourth, we should review experience and raise the profile of the CASCF. The Sixth Ministerial Meeting to be held in China in 2014 will mark the tenth anniversary of the CASCF, the premier mechanism for cooperation between China and other developing countries. Both sides have done tremendous hard work for the development of the CASCF. In the next two years, we should take stock of useful experience in the growth of the CASCF, make plans for the future direction of this mechanism, and turn it into a model mechanism for inter-civilizational exchanges and South-South cooperation.

To demonstrate China's sincere commitment to China-Arab practical cooperation, we will take the following specific measures in the next two years. First, we will work together with Arab states to grow China-Arab trade to US$300 billion by 2014. Second, the Chinese Secretariat of the CASCF will invite a total of 100 young Arab leaders to China this year and next year. Third, relevant government departments in China will train 5,000 professionals for Arab states from 2012 to 2014. Fourth, new cooperation mechanisms in health, quality inspection, industry and other fields will be put in place.

Dear Friends,

Enhancing China-Arab friendship and cooperation is the call of the times and aspiration of the people of our two sides. Let us work together to deepen strategic cooperation, promote common development, advance institution-building of the CASCF and write a new chapter in China-Arab strategic relationship of cooperation.

Thank you!

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