President Jiang Zemin of China arrived in Israel Wednesday on an historic seven-day visit. Jiang and his large accompanying delegation were welcomed by President Ezer Weizman in a state ceremony. The visit is the first leg in a tour that will include the Palestinian Authority (PA), Egypt, Turkey, Greece and South Africa.
Israeli daily Ha’aretz reported China's president is visiting Israel at a time when the United States is applying heavy pressure on Israel to nullify a deal in which Israel would supply intelligence-gathering planes to China's air force in a transaction worth between $1 billion and $2 billion. With that controversy hovering over the visit, Israeli officials stress that Jiang's visit will not address security issues. In response to American pressure, and in order to avoid the media spotlight, Israel has decided to cancel plans for Jiang to visit an Israel Aircraft Industries facility.
The visit caps an eight-year process in which diplomatic relations between the countries have been strengthened. Israel and China established diplomatic relations on February 24, 1992.
Israel and China will sign two cooperative agreements during Jiang's visit, one dealing with educational matters and the other involving technological research, the daily said.
During his visit to Isreal, Jiang will meet with Prime Minister Ehud Barak, Foreign Minister David Levy and Likud leader Ariel Sharon. At his own request, China's president will tour Negev regions in the south, including a stop at Moshav Naot Hakikar to observe crop cultivation under desert conditions, and a stop at Kibbutz Ein Gedi to view communal kibbutz life in a desert setting.
Jiang’s visits to Israel and South Africa are the first ever
by a China top man – (Several Sources) – Photo by AFP.
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