(photo credit: Associated Press)
President Hu Jintao of oil-hungry China met the Palestinian foreign minister and officials of other Arab governments on Wednesday at a conference on strengthening Sino-Arab ties.
China wants to "further develop cooperation in all areas and earnestly promote the rapid development of our continuing friendly ties," Hu told a group of foreign ministers and other officials of Arab governments and the Arab League.
China supports "the Arab countries' peace initiative for settling Palestinian-Israeli conflict," State Councilor Tang Jiaxuan told the delegates.
Tang also said that trade between China and the Arab world could double to as much as US$100 billion in 2010 by facilitating the free flow of goods, capital, technology and service, .
The two-day Sino-Arab Cooperation Forum comes as China scrambles to secure energy for its sizzling economy, which expanded by 9.9 percent last year and is one of the world's top oil importers.
Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing told the Arab delegates that China and their governments "share extensive common interests, which lays solid foundation for the development of China-Arab relations."
The official Xinhua News Agency said Li and the Arab delegates "exchanged views on the Palestine-Israel situation, Iraq and the Iran nuclear issue," without elaborating.
Israel has protested China's invitation to Palestinian Foreign Minister Mahmoud Zahar, calling the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority that he represents a "terrorist government."
A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman appealed to Hamas on Tuesday to abandon violence and recognize Israel _ conditions set by Israel and the West for negotiating with Hamas.