Assad visits China amid diplomatic push to end isolation

Assad visits China amid diplomatic push to end isolation
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Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has landed in Hangzhou, marking his first visit to China since 2004. He will attend the Asian Games and meet with President Xi Jinping

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad arrived in the eastern Chinese city of Hangzhou on Thursday, marking his first visit to China since 2004, a significant move amid his efforts to step out of over a decade-long diplomatic isolation due to Western sanctions.

President Assad's visit is filled with diplomatic engagements. He is scheduled to grace the opening ceremony of the Asian Games, where he will join a cohort of over a dozen international dignitaries. Beyond the Games, Assad will spearhead a delegation through a series of dialogues in multiple Chinese cities. A paramount meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping is on the agenda, slated for Friday.

"Ahead of the Asian Games opening, this diplomatic discourse with Xi will be monumental," Reuters cited a source from the Syrian delegation as saying, further noting that meetings in Beijing are on the docket for Sunday and Monday.

This high-profile encounter with China's premier at an influential regional event could solidify Syria's intentions to reestablish itself on the global stage. Notably, Syria took steps towards this by signing onto China's expansive Belt and Road Initiative in 2022 and earning re-admittance to the Arab League in May, now 22-nations strong.

The last time Assad stepped foot in China was nearly two decades ago in 2004. He had engaged in talks with then-President Hu Jintao in what was historically the first instance of a Syrian state head visiting since the two nations cemented their diplomatic relationship in 1956.