China's Xi launches Serbian leg of three-nation tour

Chinese President Xi Jinping landed in Serbia on Friday for the start of a tour which will also take him to Poland and Uzbekistan to finalize a series of business and trade deals and boost relations with the three countries.

On Xi's agenda in Belgrade is the signing of nearly two dozen agreements, including a "strategic cooperation" deal, Serbian media cited Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic as saying. 

Some of the deals are a continuation of what was agreed in a December 2014 summit of China and 16 central and eastern European nations in Belgrade, when mostly infrastructure projects worth up to 10 billion dollars in Serbia alone were pledged, but not realized.

Despite being an Europe Union membership candidate, analysts say Serbia feels pressured by the West and is looking to Russia and China for diplomatic support, particularly in its efforts to block full international recognition of its runaway province Kosovo.

Xi's visit is "the crown of friendship between the two countries," said Stanislava Pak, advisor to Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic.

“China supports Serbia’s territorial integrity … and Serbia supports a one-China policy," Pak told state TV RTS. 

Xi was welcomed by Nikolic on Saturday at the airport and was later due to lay the cornerstone of a new Chinese Cultural Centre and present a monument to Confucius in the freshly-named Confucius Street.

He and Nikolic will also lay wreaths at the site where the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, during its intervention against Serbia over Kosovo in 1999, accidentally bombed the Chinese embassy, killing three Chinese nationals.

"China and Serbia have given each other firm support on issues concerning their core interests, which shows the essence of a strategic relationship," Li Manchang, the Chinese ambassador to Serbia, told Xinhua news agency.

Li cited Serbian support for Beijing's so-called Belt and Road Initiative to enhance China's infrastructure links with Europe and Africa as an example. 

Last update: Fri, 17/06/2016 - 14:47

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