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Syria, China Announce Partnership      09/22 06:46


   BEIJING (AP) -- China and Syria announced the formation of a strategic 
partnership on Friday as Chinese leader Xi Jinping kicked off a series of 
diplomatic meetings ahead of the upcoming Asian Games.

   Xi met Syrian President Bashar Assad in the southern Chinese city of 
Hangzhou, which is hosting the 15-day sports competition.

   "In the face of the unstable and uncertain international situation, China is 
willing to work with Syria to firmly support each other ... and jointly 
safeguard international fairness and justice," Xi said in a video clip posted 
online by state broadcaster CCTV.

   Assad's visit parallels in some ways that of Russian President Vladimir 
Putin last year for the opening ceremony of the Beijing Winter Olympics. Both 
leaders are virtual pariahs in the West but welcomed by China as it tries to 
expand its global influence and promote an alternative to the U.S.-led 
international order.

   The Syrian leader will attend the Asian Games opening ceremony on Saturday 
night along with the king of Cambodia, the crown prince of Kuwait and the prime 
ministers of Nepal, East Timor and South Korea, China's Foreign Ministry has 

   Xi also met Kuwaiti Crown Prince Sheikh Meshal Al Ahmed Al Jaber Al Sabah on 
Friday and said he would work with him to take bilateral relations to a new 
level, CCTV reported.

   Both meetings took place at a state guest house at West Lake, a scenic 
tourist destination in Hangzhou that has inspired Chinese painters for 

   Cambodian King Norodom Sihamoni arrived Friday at the airport in Hangzhou. 
CCTV video posted online showed him walking down the stairs from his plane to 
the tarmac for a red carpet welcome that included the Asian Games mascots.

   Assad, who is making a rare trip abroad, is looking for ways to emerge from 
the international isolation brought on by a brutal war at home that shows no 
sign of ending after 12 years. He was expected to discuss economic assistance 
from China, which could play a major role in Syria's future reconstruction.

   Syrian state TV quoted Assad as thanking Xi and his government for standing 
on the side of the Syrian people "during the crisis and suffering." China has 
backed Assad, using its veto on the U.N. Security Council eight times to block 
resolutions against his government.

   Xi told Assad that China supports Syria in opposing external interference 
and unilateral bullying and promoting a political solution that is led and 
owned by Syrians, China's CCTV said.

   Assad expressed hope that the meeting would be the basis for "wide-ranging 
and long-term strategic cooperation in all fields" between China and Syria.

   The Asian Games, which have more participants than the Olympics, also 
sparked a diplomatic row between India and China. Three Indian athletes from 
Arunachal Pradesh, which China claims as its territory, refused to accept their 
visas and stayed home after they were given visas stapled to their passports -- 
different from those given to the rest of the team.

   The Asian Games were scheduled for last year but postponed because of 
China's then-strict pandemic restrictions. China eased its restrictions in 
December of last year.

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