Syria’s Assad to travel to China for summit with Xi — presidency

DAMASCUS (Reuters): Syrian President Bashar Assad will travel to China this week for a bilateral summit with his Chinese counterpart, the presidency in Damascus said in a statement on Tuesday.

Assad, Syrian first lady Asmaa Assad and a senior delegation will travel to China on Thursday for a string of meetings in Beijing and Changzhou. Presidents Assad and Xi would hold a Syrian-Chinese summit, the statement said.

Assad last visited China in 2004 to meet then-President Hu Jintao. It was the first visit by a Syrian head of state to China since the countries established diplomatic ties in 1956.

China — like Syria’s main allies Russia and Iran — maintained those ties even as other countries isolated Assad over his brutal crackdown of anti-government demonstrations that erupted in 2011.

As a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, China has repeatedly vetoed resolutions on Syria, including several to extend cross-border aid operations into areas outside the Syrian government’s control.

Assad has come in from the diplomatic cold this year, with the Arab League reinstating Syria as a fully-fledged member after more than a decade of suspension.