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Belarus President Lukashenko returns to China, seeks stronger ties

Published Dec 04, 2023 06:18 Updated Dec 04, 2023 08:50
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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Chinese President Xi Jinping and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko review the honour guard during a welcome ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China March 1, 2023. cnsphoto via REUTERS/File photo

By Joe Cash and Liz Lee

BEIJING (Reuters) -Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko met China's leader Xi Jinping in Beijing on Monday for the second time this year, with the diplomatically isolated leader talking up his country's economic ties to the Asian giant amid biting Western sanctions.

The close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin is on a "working visit" to the Chinese capital and was received by Xi at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse for a "working lunch" and three hours of talks, according to Belarussian state media.

Lukashenko, the president of Belarus since 1994, backed Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 by allowing Moscow to use its territory to launch the war, but is faced with a crippled economy that is heavily reliant on trade with Russia.

"China is willing to continue to strengthen strategic cooperation with Belarus, promote practical cooperation and deepen bilateral relations," Xi told his guest, according to Chinese state news agency Xinhua.

"The two sides should implement projects like the China-Belarus Industrial Park and promote more achievements in China-Belarus industrial cooperation," Xinhua reported Xi as saying.

The world's second-largest economy was Belarus' seventh largest trading partner in 2021 and before the war in Ukraine, according U.N. Comtrade data. China was Belarus' second-largest import partner, but the Eastern European country bought around three-quarters less from China than it did from Russia.

Lukashenko highlighted the scope to grow his country's commercial ties with China, Belarussian state media said, and lauded the "more than 120" two-way visits made by Chinese and Belarussian parties since the leaders last met in March.

Quickening the pace of cooperation between China and Belarus was "the only issue" Lukashenko wished to discuss with Xi on this visit to the Chines capital, the report added.

Xi told Lukashenko that both countries should improve cross-border transport facilitation and promote economic and trade initiatives like the China-Belarus Industrial Park, as well as people-to-people exchanges, according to Xinhua.

Belarus faces sanctions from the United States, European Union, Britain, Canada, the Netherlands, and a number of other countries over its support of Russia's invasion of Ukraine and longer standing issues surrounding political repression.

Lukashenko told Xi that the world would thank China for its efforts to bring countries into his flagship Belt and Road Initiative, "unlike Western countries that are trying to cut everything into pieces," Belarussian state media reported.

Xi offered to enhance coordination and cooperation between China and Belarus in multilateral mechanisms such as the United Nations and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, the Xinhua report said.

"China and Belarus are important forces in the reform and construction of the global governance system," it quoted Xi as saying.

Belarus President Lukashenko returns to China, seeks stronger ties
 

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