Xi Jinping pledges $ 20 billion in loans to revive Middle East

BEIJING (Reuters) – Chinese President Xi Jinping on Tuesday pledged a $ 20 billion loan package and around $ 106 million in financial assistance to Middle Eastern countries, in what he called an “oil and gas plus” model to revive the growing economy in the region.

Beijing has stepped up its engagement in the Middle East in recent years, with Arab countries playing an important role in Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road foreign policy plan for strong trade routes from China to Central Asia and from the South East.

Development is key to solving many security challenges in the Middle East, Xi said during a meeting with representatives from 21 Arab countries in the Chinese capital.

“We must treat each other frankly, not fear differences, not avoid problems and have long discussions on every aspect of foreign policy and development strategy,” he said.

China reportedly offers 100 million yuan ($ 15 million) aid to Palestine to support economic development, in addition to providing an additional 600 million yuan ($ 91 million) to Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and Yemen, he added.

A consortium of banks from China and Arab countries, with a dedicated fund of $ 3 billion, will also be set up, he said.

The relationship between the banking consortium, the financial aid and the loan package was not clear.

The loans will finance an “economic reconstruction” and “industrial revival” plan that would include cooperation on oil and gas, nuclear and clean energy, Xi said.

He urged the “parties concerned” to respect the international consensus in the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, and called for it to be treated fairly, in order to avoid regional disruptions.

China, which has traditionally played little role in conflicts or diplomacy in the Middle East despite its reliance on the region for energy supply, has attempted to become more involved in resolving disputes over long time.

China says it sticks to a “non-interference” policy when offering financial aid and deals to developing countries, which, together with development, can help resolve political, religious tensions. and cultural.

It applies this model of economic support, along with a strict security regime, to its troubled western region of Xinjiang. But rights groups criticized the approach, saying the crackdown has further fueled, not eased, tensions between the Uyghur Muslim minority and the Han ethnic majority.

($ 1 = 6.6033 yuan Chinese renminbi)

(This version of the story corrects the value of financial aid in paragraphs 1.5)

Reporting by Christian Shepherd; Editing by Clarence Fernandez

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