Chinese president arrives in Saudi Arabia on Mideast tour

RIYADH: Chinese President Xi Jinping has arrived in Saudi Arabia for a two-day visit as part of a Middle East tour that will include stops in Egypt and Iran.

Saudi state television reported that King Salman and President Xi were holding talks on Tuesday afternoon. Deputy Crown Prince and Defense Minister Mohammed bin Salman greeted the Chinese delegation on their arrival.

In addition to meetings with Saudi royals, Xi will be holding talks with the chiefs of the Gulf Cooperation Council and the 57-nation Organisation of Islamic Cooperation while in the kingdom.

Economic ties between Saudi Arabia and China are central to their bilateral relationship. Saudi Arabia is China's biggest supplier of crude oil, accounting for one in six barrels of China's crude oil imports, the Xinhua news agency reported. China is Saudi Arabia's second largest trade partner, with two-way trade reaching $69 billion in 2014.

Xi last visited Saudi Arabia in 2008 while vice president, and the Saudi monarch visited Beijing in 2014 when he was still crown prince.

A day before his arrival, the Chinese leader published an article in the Saudi newspaper Al-Riyadh describing the kingdom as "a brotherly state" and saying he looks forward to elevating Chinese-Saudi bilateral relations.

He noted that following the 2008 earthquake that hit China's Sichuan Province, Saudi Arabia provided more than $60 million in assistance, the greatest assistance package ever received by the Chinese government.

After his visit to Saudi Arabia, Xi will travel to Egypt where he will meet with President Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi and deliver a speech at the Cairo headquarters of the Arab League on China's policies in the Middle East.

In Iran, Xi will meet Iranian President Hassan Rouhani as Tehran looks to attract foreign investment following the lifting of nuclear sanctions.

Xi's visit to Riyadh is the latest in a flurry of diplomatic meetings in Saudi Arabia this week, including visits by Pakistan's prime minister on Monday, France's foreign minister Tuesday and the US Secretary of State Saturday.