China’s Foreign Minister visits Tunisia with Gaza and development co-operation on agenda

Wang Yi's trip comes as the two countries mark 60th anniversary of diplomatic ties

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi attends a joint press conference at Tahrir palace in Cairo, before visiting Tunisia. EPA
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Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi has arrived in Tunisia on an official two-day visit.

The visit comes as part of a four-nation Africa tour – including Egypt, Cote d'Ivoire and Togo – that has become something of a tradition in January each year.

Mr Wang was received by his Tunisian counterpart Nabil Ammar and is expected to discuss the war in Gaza, as well as co-operation in the health, energy and technology fields.

China recently called for a large-scale international peace summit on the Gaza conflict.

Tunisian Foreign Ministry told journalists via email on Friday that Mr Wang’s visit was proof of the strategic position the North African nation holds for China in the region.

Mr Wang is accompanied by the Deputy Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the vice president of the Chinese International Co-operation Agency and a number of high-ranking executives.

He is expected to meet senior Tunisian officials and take part in an “expanded working session” with Mr Ammar.

Mr Wang's visit also coincides with the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between China and Tunisia.

“Tunisia seeks to strengthen the bonds of friendship with China and establish new and promising partnerships in several sectors, which will contribute to raising bilateral relations to the highest levels,” the Tunisian presidency said in a Facebook post last Thursday after a phone call between President Kais Saied and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping.

The Tunisian Foreign Ministry also said in the same correspondence that the visit confirmed the country’s foreign policy approach, which seeks to diversify its partners, besides its traditional friends and allies.

Through the visit, the two countries are reportedly seeking to complete an agreement between Tunisia's Foreign Ministry and the Chinese Agency for International Co-operation and Development.

The agreement aims to establish joint projects in the health, renewable energy and communication technology sectors.

On July 11, 2018, the two countries signed an agreement on Tunisia’s accession to the Belt and Road Initiative Project, later renamed the Global Development Initiative.

Under the initiative, China allocated about $1 trillion in investment and loans in support of vast infrastructure projects on different continents.

Before arriving in Tunis, Mr Wang visited Egypt where he repeated his country’s stance regarding the Israel-Gaza war and said “the international community should listen carefully to the legitimate concerns in the Middle East”.

“China calls for the convening of a larger-scale, more authoritative and more effective international peace conference, the formulation of a specific timetable and road map for the implementation of the 'two-state solution',” Mr Wang told journalists in Cairo on Sunday after meeting his Egyptian counterpart Sameh Shoukry.

China has been able to forge a role as an alternative source of credit for Tunisia – and several other African countries – to pay its debts after the country struggled to reach an agreement with the International Monetary Fund regarding a bailout loan.

China was among the first countries to support Tunisia in combating the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic through successive donations, including vaccines and medical equipment, between 2020 and 2022.

The French invest about $2 billion a year in the North African country. However, China could soon catch up through projects such as the University Hospital of Sfax and the Melegue dam near El Kef that are being built.

Between 2008 and 2021, China reportedly spent $240 billion bailing out 22 countries, including Argentina, Pakistan, Turkey and Kenya.

Updated: January 15, 2024, 1:39 PM