camel desert
© FILE PHOTO AFP / Karim Sahib
Beijing has inked cooperation deals on its multi-trillion-dollar Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) with 17 Arab countries, state-run Xinhua News Agency reported, citing the results of a joint Sino-Arab forum.

The second China-Arab Forum on Reform and Development, which was held in Shanghai on Tuesday, attracted more than a hundred businessmen, politicians, and academics from China and Arab states, including Egypt, Lebanon, Djibouti, and Oman. This year's meeting, dubbed 'Build the Belt and Road, Share Development and Prosperity', was dedicated to boosting the project.

Arab countries have shown great interest in cooperation with Beijing. Apart from joining the Belt and Road Initiative, 12 Arab states established strategic partnerships, including comprehensive ones, with China.

"The Arab representatives said the BRI cooperation with China brings immense opportunities to Arab countries to advance reform and accelerate growth," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lu Kang told journalists at a news conference on Wednesday.

The Sino-Arab cooperation on the project is to receive another "strong impetus" as many Arab state leaders are expected to attend the second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation, which will be held in Beijing later this month, according to the diplomat.

China is the second-largest trading partner for the Arab world with $190 billion trade turnover as of 2017, according to the assistant secretary general of the Arab League, Khalil Thawadi, as quoted by the Jordan Times. The official noted that 21 Arab states signed memoranda of understanding on the new Silk Road in 2018.

China's ambitious global trade infrastructure project is expanding globally. This week, Switzerland showed its intention to sign up for the BRI. In March, Italy faced criticism from its European allies as it officially became the first G7 nation to join the initiative, and shortly afterwards, Luxembourg signed a memorandum of understanding on participation in the project. Memoranda of understanding were also signed by Greece and Portugal in August and December last year respectively.