Minister of Foreign Affairs George Vella welcomed a delegation led by Rear Admiral Li Xaioyan, Commander of the 13th Escort Taskforce of the Chinese Navy at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs this morning. The flotilla had arrived in Malta yesterday thus beginning a five-day visit.
The visit is the first of its kind made to Malta by the Chinese Navy. Li Xaioyan stated that previously the 13th Escort Taskforce had undertaken China's convoy tasks for a four-month period in the Gulf of Aden and waters off Somalia before it departed the region on March 18 for nation-visiting tasks.
For his part Commander Xaioyan stated that Malta is the first leg of the taskforce's visiting tour, which also includes Algeria, Morocco, Portugal, and France on its itinerary, and added that he was pleasantly surprised by the warm welcome that the crew had encountered.
Minister Vella said that the longstanding Sino Maltese relationship would remain a central plank of Maltese national policy, that there was a national consensus on this issue, and that there was every intention to raise the already excellent relationship to another level.
He noted that he himself had visited the People’s Republic of China on four occasions, and that he had met with newly President of China, Xi Jinping, twice. Minister Vella wished the crew a restful sojourn while in Malta. Minister Vella also expressed his thanks for the Chinese navy’s continuing assistance to protect global shipping, including Maltese registered shipping, through the problematic Gulf of Aden shipping lane.
Earlier today, President George Abela received a courtesy call by Rear Admiral Mr Li Xaioyan of the Chinese PLA Navy accompanied by HE Mr Cai Jinbiao, Chinese Ambassador.