China's Xi signs strategic cooperation deal in Belgrade

China and Serbia signed a broad strategic cooperation agreement and a host of other deals on Saturday, the second day of President Xi Jinping's visit to Belgrade.

"Serbia is on the way of the One Belt, One Road and has a significant role on it," Xi said after signing the document with his host, President Tomislav Nikolic.

Xi was speaking of Beijing's Belt and Road Initiative, also known as the New Silk Road, aiming to enhance China's infrastructure links with Europe and Africa.

"On this road we expect more investment and more trade. It is a platform to develop and strengthen relationships," Xi added.

The remaining 21 agreements include technical cooperation protocols, a commercial road construction deal, information technology exchange, a telecommunications purchase by Serbia and various memoranda of understanding.

Some of the agreements only reaffirm pledges from the China-Central and Eastern Europe summit in Belgrade in December 2014.

Nikolic also decorated Xi with the Republic of Serbia medal, recognizing his role in developing ties.

The Chinese president then met Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic, who afterwards promised "many more joint infrastructure projects." 

Xi's visit was "an extraordinary opportunity to build economic ties on already good political relations," Vucic said.

Beijing is an important partner for Serbia, which, though negotiating EU membership, seeks to keep close ties with China and especially Russia, both of which backed Serbia in its confrontation with the West over the breakaway province of Kosovo.

Returning the favour, both Nikolic and Vucic said that Belgrade supports Beijing's "One China" policy, which asserts sovereignty over self-governing Taiwan.

On Sunday Xi continues his tour with a visit to Poland, concluding it with a stop in Uzbekistan.

Last update: Sat, 18/06/2016 - 15:05

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