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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 18 August 2018

China's President Xi Jinping arrives in Abu Dhabi for a 'new phase of co-operation'

Mr Xi was welcomed by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid and Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed

China's President Xi Jinping received a royal welcome as he arrived in Abu Dhabi to begin an historic three-day state visit.

Mr Xi was met at the Presidential Airport by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, and Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces.

The delegation were due to attend a welcoming ceremony at the Presidential Palace later.

The Chinese national anthem was played at the airport and 21 artillery rounds were fired as part of the greeting, the state new agency Wam reported.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed said the visit will help usher in a "new phase of co-operation" between the two nations.

The UAE dispatched fighter jets to escort Mr Xi’s plane as soon as it entered the country’s airspace, Chinese state television station CGTN reported.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed tweeted: "We are delighted with the Chinese President's visit to the UAE. By all standards, the visit is historic and promises a new phase in the co-operation between the two countries which encompasses all areas. The visit will be rewarding as it will bring prosperity and development to citizens of both countries."

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid said that the UAE accounts for about a quarter of Arab Trade with China, a figure of close to Dh200 billion last year, while the UAE recorded more than one million Chinese visitors in 2017.

He said he looks forward to doubling both figures in the future.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid said that there is a "mutual understanding" between the UAE and China on a number of regional and international issues.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid tweeted: "The UAE is the first region in the Gulf to build strategic relations with China. There exists a mutual understanding between the UAE and China on a number of regional and international affairs and we strive to consolidate cultural, public and humanitarian relations in addition to the existing strong political and economics relations."

Mr Xi’s visit is his first trip abroad since being re-elected in March and comes as both nations draw on their strengthening ties across commerce, culture, tourism and politics.

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The visit coincides with a celebration of Chinese culture during UAE-China Week.

A key UAE-China Economic Forum is also expected to take place on Friday.

The UAE had already been in celebratory mood ahead of Mr Xi's arrival, with iconic buildings such as the Burj Khalifa and Burj Al Arab in Dubai and Adnoc’s headquarters in Abu Dhabi lit up in China's colours.

Rolling coverage of the highly anticipated visit is being beamed to millions of people both in China and throughout the Middle East.

Writing in The National on Wednesday, Mr Xi reflected that the friendship between both countries had developed over thousands of years and had now progressed to a crucial, strategic partnership.

“Our two countries are geographically far apart and different in national conditions," he said. "But we are both proud to have enterprising and creative people who never give up on their dreams."

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