Syrian President Bashar al-Assad arrived in the city of Hangzhou, eastern China, on Thursday (21/9/2023). Photo/The New York Times
BEIJING – President Bashar al-Assad’s Syria arrived in Hangzhou city, China east, to begin his visit to the East Asian country. It was his first visit since 2004 as he took further steps to end more than a decade of diplomatic isolation amid Western sanctions.
Assad arrived on an Air China plane on Thursday amid thick fog, which Chinese state media said “added to an air of mystery” given the fact that the Syrian leader has rarely been seen since the start of the civil war that has claimed more than half a million lives.
“Assad is scheduled to attend the opening ceremony of the Asian Games along with more than a dozen foreign officials,” the Ministry of Foreign Affairs previously said as quoted by Al Alarabiya, Friday (22/9/2023).
In a statement on Tuesday, Assad’s presidential office said he would lead a senior delegation to a series of meetings in several Chinese cities, including a summit with President Xi Jinping.
Assad last visited China in 2004 to meet with then Chinese President Hu Jintao. This is the first visit by a Syrian head of state to China since the two countries established diplomatic relations in 1956.
China – like Syria’s main allies Russia and Iran – maintained those ties even as other countries isolated Assad over his brutal crackdown on anti-government demonstrations that erupted in 2011.