Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived in the ancient city of Bukhara in central-southern Uzbekistan Tuesday, starting his state visit to this Central Asian country.
Xi and his wife, Peng Liyuan, were greeted by Uzbek Prime Minister Shavkat Mirziyoev and Governor of Bukhara Province Muhiddin Esanov at the airport.
In a written speech delivered at the airport, Xi hailed the time-honored friendship between China and Uzbekistan, noting that the peoples of the two countries had jointly opened the great Silk Road more than 2,000 years ago.
Currently, the two sides have carried out all-ranging cooperation within the framework of the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative and have achieved fruitful results, Xi said.
"I'm looking forward to exchanging views with President Islam Karimov on elevating our relations and deepening mutually-beneficial cooperation in all areas, thus jointly drawing up the beautiful blueprint for our relations and building a community of shared interest and future," he said.
"Meanwhile, I'am looking forward to attending the summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) on its 15th anniversary, to jointly look back at the history of our organization with other leaders, sum up the achievements of our cooperation, carry forward the 'Shanghai Spirit,' and chart the course for the future of the organization," he added.
Bukhara is a city-museum with a history of more than 2,500 years. Located along the route of the ancient Silk Road, the city has long served as a center of trade, scholarship, culture, and religion. UNESCO listed the Historic Center of Bukhara, which boasts numerous mosques, as a World Heritage Site in 1993.
Xi will later travel to the Uzbek capital Tashkent, where he will hold talks with Karimov on promoting bilateral relations and jointly building the China-proposed Silk Road Economic Belt, as well as on major international and regional issues.
China and Uzbekistan established a strategic partnership in 2012, and leaders of the two countries have met on multiple occasions over recent years. In September 2013, Xi paid a state visit to Uzbekistan.
China has been Uzbekistan's second largest trading partner and biggest source of investment for three years in a row.
In cultural cooperation, Uzbekistan opened the first Confucius Institute in Central Asia in Tashkent in 2005, and a second such institute was established in 2014 in Samarkand, a historical city in southeastern Uzbekistan.
"Uzbekistan is a strategic partner of China and also an important cooperative partner in combating the 'three evil forces' (of terrorism, separatism and extremism) and jointly building the Silk Road Economic Belt," Chinese Assistant Foreign Minister Li Huilai told reporters ahead of Xi's visit. "The China-Uzbekistan relations are at their best in history."
In Tashkent, Xi will also attend the 16th meeting of the SCO Council of Heads of State on June 23 and 24, to exchange views with other leaders on all-ranging cooperation within the organization and on major international and regional issues.
Xi will chair a trilateral meeting of leaders of China, Russia and Mongolia on the sidelines of the summit, the third of its kind. He will also hold bilateral meetings with leaders of other countries.
Uzbekistan is the third and final stop of Xi's three-nation tour, which has taken him to Serbia and Poland.