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President Xi kicks off historic visit to Serbia with emphasis on friendship, peace

Editor: zhenglimin 丨Xinhua

06-18-2016 13:22 BJT

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BELGRADE, June 17 (Xinhua) -- Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived here Friday for a historic visit to Serbia as China seeks to carry forward traditional friendship and step up economic cooperation with the Balkan country.

Serbia sent fighter jets to escort Xi's plane when it entered the country's airspace. Xi and his wife Peng Liyuan were greeted by Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic and his wife Dragica, Parliament Speaker Maja Gojkovic, Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic, and Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic at the airport.

Serbian children presented bread and salt to Xi and Peng, which is a token of friendship and respect in Serbian tradition. The couple also received flowers and watched the performance of traditional Serbian folk dance, Kolo.

"The traditional friendship between our two countries and peoples has stood the historical test amid the changes of the international landscape and our respective national conditions, and become even stronger," the Chinese president said in a written speech delivered at the airport.

Xi noted the accelerated progress in bilateral ties especially since the establishment of the strategic partnership between China and Serbia in 2009.

The Chinese president hailed the political mutual trust and the fruitful cooperation in such fields as energy, transportation infrastructure construction and agriculture in recent years.

"China stands ready to work with Serbia to keep the momentum and push our relations and practical cooperation to a higher level, ushering in a new chapter for our mutually beneficial cooperation and common development," he said.

It is the first visit by a Chinese head of state to Serbia in 32 years.

As the first public event during the visit, Xi and Peng paid homage to three Chinese journalists killed in the NATO bombing of the Chinese embassy in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia on May 7, 1999.

They joined Nikolic, Gojkovic, Vucic and all other Serbian cabinet members in paying tribute to the martyrs.

Leaders of the two countries laid wreaths to a new cenotaph erected on the site where the destroyed embassy once stood. Engraved with "Honor Martyrs, Cherish Peace," the cenotaph was set up by the Chinese government on Friday.

The three victims of the indiscriminate bombing were journalists Shao Yunhuan of Xinhua News Agency, and Xu Xinghu and his wife Zhu Ying, of the Guangming Daily newspaper. The barbaric missile attack on the Chinese embassy in 1999 also left dozens of others injured and the embassy building severely damaged.

To commemorate the Chinese journalists and thank China for its support to Serbia, the Belgrade municipal government set up the first cenotaph in front of the bombarded embassy site on May 7, 2009.

Xi and Nikolic stressed that the time-honored traditional friendship and the special friendly sentiments between their two countries are forged with blood and lives, and will be passed on through generations.

China and Serbia will join hands in promoting development and peace, said the two presidents.

After the mourning, the two heads of state attended a ceremony to lay the cornerstone for a Chinese culture center to be built on the site of the former embassy, which will be the first one in the western Balkans.

Mayor of Belgrade Sinisa Mali announced that the street outside the center will be named after ancient Chinese philosopher Confucius, and the square outside the center will be named "China-Serbia Friendship Square."

After the ceremony, Xi and Peng, accompanied by Nikolic and his wife Dragica, visited the Kalemegdan Park and Belgrade Fortress, the most important historical site in the Serbian capital. The park and the fortress are located on a 125-meter-high cliff at the junction of the River Sava and the River Danube.

The two couples took a stroll in the park while engaged in friendly conversations. Xi told his host that looking down at the two rivers from the fortress, he felt like seeing the long history of the Serbian people.

"The Serbian people, with an indomitable spirit, have revived time and again in history like the phoenix nirvana, which the Chinese people admire very much," Xi said.

Noting that both China and Serbia are peace-loving countries with no fear of hegemonic powers, Xi pledged to join Serbia in firmly supporting each others' core interests and on issues of major concerns, and to jointly contribute to world peace and development.

The Chinese president wrapped up the first day of the state visit with a dinner hosted by Nikolic in an elegant and quiet villa. The two heads of state exchanged views on a broad range of issues of common concern.

Xi hailed the "all-weather friendship" and "special brotherly bond" between China and Serbia, expressing satisfaction in their practical cooperation and various cultural and people-to-people exchanges.

"China highly values the friendship with Serbia and cherishes the good momentum of the vigorous development of bilateral ties," Xi said.

He urged the two countries to elevate their relations to a more strategic and comprehensive level, while sticking to the principles of mutual respect, equality and win-win.

As an old and true friend, Serbia is glad to see China's great achievements in socialism development and reform and opening-up, Nikolic said, stressing that both sides should firmly support each other on issues of core interests and major concerns.

Serbia is ready to join hands with China to promote bilateral ties to a higher level, said the Serbian president.

During his stay in Serbia, Xi will also hold formal meetings with Nikolic and other Serbian political leaders on bilateral relations, the Belt and Road Initiative and the cooperation between China and the Central Eastern Europe, as well as global and regional hot issues of common concern.

A number of cooperation deals covering economy, trade, industrial capacity and finance are expected to be inked.

After visiting Serbia, Xi will travel to Poland and Uzbekistan for state visits as well as the 16th meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization Council of Heads of State in Tashkent.

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