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Syria’s Assad to head to China as Beijing boosts its reach in the Middle East

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Syria’s Bashar al-Assad to head to China as Beijing boosts its reach in the Middle East

China has been one of the president’s main backers in the Syrian conflict and could eventually play a major role in the country’s reconstructionEarlier this year, Beijing mediated a deal between Saudi Arabia and Iran, in a sign of its growing influence in the regionMiddle EastAssociated PressPublished: 2:52am, 20 Sep, 2023Why you can trust SCMP

Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad will head to China later this week in his first visit to Beijing since the start of his country’s 12-year conflict during which China has been one of his main backers, his office said on Tuesday.

China has been expanding its reach in the Middle East after mediating a deal in March between Saudi Arabia and Iran, and it continues to support Assad in the Syrian conflict, which has killed half a million people and left large parts of the nation in ruins.

China could play a major role in the future in Syria’s reconstruction, which is expected to cost tens of billions of dollars. Syria last year joined China’s Belt and Road Initiative in which Beijing expands its influence in developing regions through infrastructure projects.

Assad’s office said the Syrian leader was invited by Chinese President Xi Jinping for a summit and will head Thursday to Beijing along with a high-ranking Syrian delegation.

02:43

In war-torn Syria, production starts on Jackie Chan film about heroic Chinese diplomats

In war-torn Syria, production starts on Jackie Chan film about heroic Chinese diplomats

Syria’s worsening economic crisis has led to protests in government-held parts of the country, mainly in the southern province of Sweida. Syria blames the crisis on Western sanctions and US-backed Kurdish-led fighters who control the country’s largest oilfields in the east near the border with Iraq.

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