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Gulf ministers visit China amid energy fears

Foreign ministers from oil-rich Gulf states arrived in Beijing on Monday for a five-day visit, amid concerns about China’s energy security due to unrest in neighboring Kazakhstan.

According to the Foreign Ministry, officials from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, and Bahrain, as well as the Secretary-General of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), Nayef bin Falah Al-Hajrah, will be in China until Friday.

Recent unrest in Kazakhstan’s oil and the gas-rich region has alarmed China, which has long invested heavily in its central Asian neighbor’s energy industry.

The visit comes after a flurry of diplomatic activity by China’s Foreign Minister, including a tour of Africa and visits to the Maldives and Sri Lanka.

“Facing vast development prospects, (China) believes this visit… will further deepen China-GCC relation and promote the achievement of better results from China-GCC dialogue and cooperation in various fields,” Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Wang Wenbin said at a routine briefing Monday.

“We are willing to work hard together with all sides from the GCC, pursue common development, and advance bilateral relations to a new stage.”

He did not elaborate on the discussions that took place during the Gulf ministers’ visit, which is the first of its kind. However, they are expected to discuss ways to strengthen energy ties with Beijing.

China has sought to strengthen ties with Gulf states in recent years, with President Xi Jinping pledging in 2014 to more than double trade with the region by 2023. 

According to the state-owned Global Times, the visit may also be a “breakthrough” in negotiations for a China-GCC free-trade agreement. The potential agreement was first proposed in 2004, with the two parties discussing the possibility of resuming negotiations in March of last year.

In a message to Kazakhstan’s leader Kassym-Jomart Tokayev last week, Xi praised the government’s crackdown on protesters and described it as “highly responsible”. adding that Beijing is willing to “provide support” if needed, according to state media.

Source: Almayadeen English