Syria and China announced a strategic partnership during the visit of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to China.

Today he held a meeting with Chinese leader Xi Jinping. This is the Syrian leader's first visit to China since 2004. He became the first Syrian leader to visit China since the establishment of bilateral diplomatic relations between Damascus and Beijing in 1956.

Xi and Assad spoke today in the city of Hangzhou, in eastern China, on the sidelines of the Asian Games.

After 19 years: Bashar al-Assad arrives in China

"Today, we will jointly announce the establishment of a strategic partnership between China and Syria, which will be an important milestone in the history of bilateral relations," he said, according to footage broadcast on Chinese state television.

"In the face of an international situation full of instability and uncertainty, China stands ready to continue working with Syria to support each other, promote friendly cooperation, and jointly defend justice and impartiality at the international level," Xi said.

He stressed that China and Syria have resisted the test of international change.

China, part of Assad's allies, has in particular supported Syria in the UN Security Council by abstaining regularly from voting on resolutions targeting the Syrian regime.

"Thank you and thank the Chinese government for everything you have done to be on the side of the Syrian people in their cause and their trials," Assad said.

"This visit is extremely important both in its time and because of the circumstances in which it takes place, because a multipolar world is being built today that will restore balance and international stability," Assad said.

Assad's trip to China is a diplomatic blow to him as he rarely leaves his country.

Following the speeches of the two leaders, in a statement on the strategic partnership between China and Syria, quoted by SANA, Beijing and Damascus announced that they strengthen friendly cooperation in various areas.

"The Chinese side will continue to provide all possible assistance to Syria and support Syrian efforts for reconstruction and upsurge," the joint statement said.

According to SANA, several memorandums on economic and trade cooperation have been signed between the two countries.

Beijing plays a growing role in the Middle East. An example is the role he played in the impressive bickering between Iran and Saudi Arabia announced earlier this year.

Syria has been part of China's "One Belt, One Road" investment project since last year and hopes it will bring it great economic benefits after the war in Syria caused huge destruction in that country.