BEIJING: Foreign ministers from oil-rich Gulf countries arrived in Beijing on Monday for a five-day visit as unrest in neighboring Kazakhstan raises concerns over China’s energy security.
Officials from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman and Bahrain, as well as Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Secretary General Nayef bin Falah al-Hajrah, will be in China until Friday, the ministry said. Foreign Affairs.
Recent unrest in oil and gas-rich Kazakhstan has raised concerns in China, which has long invested heavily in the energy industry of its neighbor in Central Asia.
The visit follows a wave of diplomatic activity by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, including a tour of Africa as well as visits to the Maldives and Sri Lanka.
The Foreign Ministry did not provide more details on the Gulf ministers’ visit, the first such group trip, but they are expected to discuss strengthening energy ties with Beijing.
China has sought to strengthen ties with the Gulf states in recent years, with President Xi Jinping aiming in 2014 to more than double trade with the region by 2023.
The state-owned Global Times newspaper said the visit could also “break through” in the China-GCC free trade agreement talks.
The potential deal was first presented in 2004, with the two sides discussing in March last year the possibility of resuming negotiations.
Xi hailed the Kazakh government’s murderous crackdown on protesters as “highly responsible” in a message to leader Kassym-Jomart Tokayev last week.
He added that Beijing was ready to “provide support” if necessary, state media reported.