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Beijing looking toward Maldives, Horn of Africa

By CAO DESHENG and ZHAO JIA | China Daily Global | Updated: 2022-01-10 10:06

State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi (left) and Maldivian Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid stand for photographs before their official meeting in Male, Maldives, on Saturday. MOHAMED SHARUHAAN/AP

China and the Maldives have stepped up cooperation across a wide range of areas following a meeting between State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Maldivian Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid in the Maldives capital, Male, on Saturday.

During their talks, the two foreign ministers agreed to strengthen bilateral and multilateral cooperation and communication, jointly uphold the purposes and principles of the UN Charter, oppose interference in the domestic affairs of other countries and safeguard international fairness and justice.

They witnessed the signing of a number of agreements on bilateral cooperation including the right to visit each other's countries without first obtaining a visa. Under the agreement, Chinese and Maldivian citizens will be entitled to a 30-day visa upon arrival in the other country. The Maldives is a very popular tourist destination for Chinese people.

Other agreements involve collaboration on the economy, infrastructure and health and cooperating on a microgrid seawater desalination plant.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between China and the Maldives.

Wang said during the talks that, over the past five decades, the two countries have been respectful of each other, have treated each other as equals and supported each other on issues related to their core interests and major concerns, and have set an example of country-to-country friendly exchanges for win-win results.

Wang also welcomed the decision of Shahid, who was elected president of the 76th session of the General Assembly of the United Nations in June, to attend the opening ceremony of the upcoming Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics.

Meanwhile, Wang announced on Thursday that China will appoint a special envoy for Horn of Africa affairs after he held talks with Kenyan Cabinet Secretary for Foreign Affairs Raychelle Omamo. The new position is part of the "Initiative of Peaceful Development in the Horn of Africa".

The move was hailed by experts as a demonstration of the country, as a major nation, acting responsibly and taking a constructive role in the conflict-torn region.

China proposed the initiative to support regional countries in addressing security, development and governance challenges, Wang said, as the Horn of Africa in recent years has experienced conflicts and confrontation.

The Horn of Africa is located on the easternmost part of the African mainland.

Wang said conflicts hampered the region's "tremendous potential for development" and "such a situation should not be allowed to continue".

Wang suggested that the Horn of Africa should strengthen intraregional dialogue, stay out of geopolitical competition between major countries and hold the region's fate in its own hands.

He proposed holding a peace conference, adding that China would provide support by appointing a special envoy.

"Appointing a special envoy is a shared aspiration of China and countries in the region," said Li Wentao, deputy director of the Institute of African Studies at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations.

China responded to African countries' appeals as the situation in the region is getting more complicated. Countries in the Horn of Africa trust China and believe it can help mediate and resolve regional confrontations with a "just and fair attitude", Li added.

China's special envoy could engage in shuttle diplomacy in the region and contribute China's wisdom and approach to solving problems, Li said.

Wang said that countries in the region should accelerate regional revitalization and explore effective ways to overcome governance challenges, adding that China supports countries in the region seeking development paths that suit their own national conditions.

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