Syrian President Bashar Al Assad to visit China on Thursday

Leader and wife Asma's itinerary to include Beijing and Guangzhou

In this photo released by the official Facebook page of the Syrian Presidency, Syrian President Bashar Assad speaks to Syrian diplomats, in Damascus, Syria, Sunday, Aug. 20, 2017. In defiant comments Sunday, Assad blasted the West, rejecting any security cooperation or reopening of embassies in Damascus before those countries cut relations with opposition groups. In the speech, Assad praised Russia, Iran, China and Lebanon's Hezbollah for supporting his government. (Syrian Presidency Facebook page via AP)
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Syrian President Bashar Al Assad and his wife Asma will visit China on Thursday, Damascus has confirmed.

The President will head to Beijing “in response to an official invitation” from Chinese President Xi Jinping, state media said.

It will be his first visit to China since before Syria's civil war began more than a decade ago.

The leader will meet Mr Xi for a Syrian-Chinese summit, state media Sana reported on Thursday. He will be accompanied by a high-level delegation.

He will also participate in several meetings in Guangzhou.

There was no immediate comment from Beijing.

Last year, Damascus joined China's Belt and Road Initiative, which Xinhua state news outlet said “would help Syria open broad horizons of co-operation with China and other countries”.

The upcoming visit is said to centre on further boosting economic ties with Beijing.

Mr Al Assad's first and only visit to China in 2004 was the first by a Syrian leader.

It comes as Syria emerges from more than a decade of diplomatic isolation, following a conflict which has killed and displaced millions of people.

Several nations have resumed relations with Damascus in recent months, including many in the Middle East.

Saudi Arabia and Syria resumed diplomatic ties after Damascus was readmitted to the Arab League in May.

Mr Al Assad said the decision to readmit his country was a “historic opportunity”.

China welcomed the rapprochement, described by Foreign Ministry spokesman Mao Ning as “conducive to Arab states' unity”.

“Beijing firmly supports Arab states' strengthening of co-ordination and strategic independence to jointly boost regional stability and development,” Mr Mao said at the time.

Updated: September 19, 2023, 12:33 PM