CAPPADOCIA, Turkey, June 23 (Xinhua) — Middle East serves as a bridge that connects China with Africa and Europe under the Belt and Road (B&R) Initiative, a Turkish expert said in a recent interview with Xinhua.
Tugrul Keskin, a Turkish professor from China’s Shanghai University, noted that China has increased its investment and political involvement in the Middle East under the B&R initiative.
Keskin told Xinhua at the fourth China and the Middle East Conference, which concluded on Friday in Cappadocia, that China’s non-interference diplomacy and focus on economic development have been successful in fostering good economic and political relations with countries in the region.
The three-day conference brought together more than 40 scholars and experts from the Middle East and China to discuss China’s deepening cooperation with the region under the B&R initiative.
The initiative, which China proposed in 2013, aims to build a trade and infrastructure network linking Asia to Europe and Africa along the trade routes of the ancient Silk Road.
The major role China has so far played in the Middle East is economic, with the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) supporting investments in the region, Keskin said.
Major Middle Eastern countries including Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Iran, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Oman, Qatar and Kuwait are all members of AIIB, Keskin noted.
China has also become an increasingly important source of tourists for the Middle Eastern countries, including Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia, which have offered visa-free or visa-on-arrival treatment for Chinese tourists, the professor said.
Meanwhile, China has also been strengthening its military cooperation with Egypt, Lebanon, Turkey, Oman, Qatar and UAE, while trying to play a mediating role in the regional conflicts through regional and international organizations such as the Arab league, Islamic Cooperation Organization and United Nations.
He mentioned that some opinion polls in Arab countries have reflected a growing positive view of China in the region, especially among the youths.
With the expansion of the Confucius Institute and increased cooperation in education, more and more young people in the Middle East are learning Chinese or go to study in China, he added.
Hasan Ali Karasar, rector of Cappadocia University which is one of the co-organizers of the conference, told Xinhua that today’s world is no longer unipolar and Middle Eastern countries are drifting away from the United States.
“Therefore it is good time (for Middle Eastern countries) to enhance relations with other major world powers like China,” Karasar said, adding that his university would add Chinese language and research courses in the future through cooperation with Chinese universities.