Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad is to lead a high-level delegation for an official visit to China “in the coming weeks,” according to Lebanese newspaper Al-Akhbar, which cited unnamed Syrian officials.
“A high-ranking Syrian delegation is likely to visit the Chinese capital in the coming weeks to hold high-level meetings with Chinese officials to discuss the development of bilateral relations between the two countries,” the daily reported on Saturday.
“Al-Assad’s visit will constitute a strategic milestone in the course of Syrian-Chinese relations, and an additional strong dose of the Chinese role in the region,” the paper added.
The sources also said the visit will be “very important” as Al-Assad will meet his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping in an official ceremony.
الرئيس السوري بشّار الأسد قد يرأس الوفد الرسمي السوري الذي يستعدّ لزيارة بكين في الأسابيع المقبلة، وسيلتقي الرئيس الصيني شي جين بينغ باحتفالية رسمية
— فراس الشوفي Firas Al Shoufi (@firasshoufi) September 16, 2023
Speculation surrounds the visit, as Damascus, while gradually emerging from regional and international isolation, continues to grapple with the impact of US sanctions and a partial military occupation.
The recent announcement of the Indian-Arab-Israeli-European Corridor, with US support, is believed to have spurred the Chinese into action, prompting them to reinvigorate their Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) plans.
Beijing is set to host a conference next month to mark the tenth anniversary of the plan’s announcement. Notably, Syria occupies a strategic position along one of the potential routes of the proposed economic corridor.
In 2004, Al-Assad became the first Syrian president to visit China since the two countries established diplomatic relations in 1956.
In May 2023, Al-Assad praised Beijing’s supportive stance towards Damascus and its role in reconciliation efforts in the region. He made the remarks during his meeting with the visiting special envoy on Middle East affairs, Zhai Jun to the Syrian capital.