President Bashar al-Assad’s visit to China part of a bid to end more than a decade of diplomatic isolation under Western sanctions.
China has offered to help reconstruct war-torn Syria with Chinese leader Xi Jinping and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad announcing the formation of a strategic partnership.
The announcement came on Friday as the pair held diplomatic meetings in the southern Chinese city of Hangzhou.
“In the face of an unstable and uncertain international environment, China is willing to continue to work with Syria in the interests of friendly cooperation and safeguarding international fairness and justice,” Xi told his Syrian counterpart, according to Chinese state media.
“China supports Syria’s opposition to foreign interference, unilateral bullying … and will support Syria’s reconstruction,” he added.
Xi said a number of initiatives would be implemented aimed at building up infrastructure along the ancient Silk Road and promoting China’s approach to global security.
“China is willing to strengthen cooperation with Syria through the Belt and Road Initiative … to make positive contributions to regional and world peace and development,” Xi said.
Syrian state TV quoted al-Assad as thanking China for being with Syrians “during the crisis and suffering”.
The Arab leader’s rare visit is a bid to end more than a decade of diplomatic isolation under Western sanctions and to boost commercial ties with the world’s second-largest economy.
Western sanctions have been levelled against Syria since a civil war broke out there in 2011. It has killed hundreds of thousands of people and displaced millions.
Al-Assad’s government now controls most of Syria’s territory and has re-established ties in recent years with Arab neighbours that once backed Syrian rebels.
China, meanwhile, has stepped up its diplomatic engagement in the Middle East as it tries to expand its global influence and promote an alternative to the US-led international order.
In March, Beijing helped broker a deal between Saudi Arabia and Iran to end a seven-year-long diplomatic rift.