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China to Cement Ties with Europe, Central Asia during Xi's Visits

Chinese President Xi Jinping's state visits to Serbia, Poland and Uzbekistan, will significantly boost China's relationship with Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) and Central Asia, said diplomats and scholar .

The Belt and Road Initiative will be a focus of the meetings between Xi and leaders of the three countries that have traditional friendly ties with China. All three were among the first to respond to the China-proposed initiative.

President Xi will have an in-depth exchange of views with leaders in the three countries on cooperation in the initiative, officials with the Foreign Ministry said at a press briefing about Xi's visits, from June 17 to 24.

China and Serbia will sign agreements on trade, industry and finance while China and Poland will ink deals on finance, aviation, science and education, Assistant Foreign Minister Liu Haixing said.

Within the framework of China-CEE cooperation, or the "16+1" mechanism, major projects have been given the go ahead or are underway, including a China-Europe land-sea express passage, freight train services to strengthen connectivity between China and Europe, and the construction and revamping of a rail link between the Serbian and Hungarian capitals.

In April, China's HeSteel Group signed a 46-million-euro deal to buy Serbia's century-old steel plant Smederevo, with an aim to transform the plant into one of the most competitive firms in Europe.

Xi's upcoming visit to the CEE comes on the heels of his state visit to the Czech Republic in April, signalling growing importance of the region, said Liu Zuokui, a researcher with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

"Given the influence of Serbia and Poland in CEE countries, their bilateral relations with China will become a model and accelerator to China-Europe relations," Liu said.

President Xi will attend ceremonies marking the completion of major cooperation projects in Uzbekistan and discuss on new projects with his Uzbekistan counterpart during his visit to the central Asian country on June 21-24, Assistant Foreign Minister Li Huilai said.

Xi will also attend a Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in the Uzbek capital of Tashkent, where member state leaders will discuss anti-terrorism, drug smuggling and trans-national crimes to deepen security cooperation in the region, according to Li.

Founded in 2001, the SCO now has China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan as its full members, with Afghanistan, Belarus, India, Iran, Mongolia and Pakistan as observers.

(Xinhua News Agency June 15, 2016)

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