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Friday, June 17, 2016, 21:02

Xi arrives in Serbia for state visit

By Xinhua

Xi arrives in Serbia for state visit
In this photo provided by the Serbian Presidential Press Service, Chinese President Xi Jinping (left) and his spouse, Peng Liyuan, wave upon their arrival to Belgrade, Serbia, June 17, 2016. (Serbian Presidential Press Service via AP)

BELGRADE - Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived here Friday for a state visit to Serbia as China seeks to carry forward traditional friendship and step up economic engagement with Serbia.

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, 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 for them to taste, a Serbian tradition to show respect and friendship to distinguished guests. 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 also hailed the mutual political trust and the fruitful cooperation between the two sides in various fields such as energy, transportation infrastructure construction and agriculture over recent years.

"China stands ready to work with Serbia to keep the momentum and push our relations and practical cooperation to a higher level, thus creating a new situation 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, and Xi's second trip -- following one to the Czech Republic in March -- to Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) in less than three months.

During his stay in Serbia, Xi will meet Nikolic and other Serbian political leaders for discussions on bilateral relations, the Belt and Road Initiative and China-CEE cooperation, as well as global and regional hot-spot issues of common concern.

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

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