Updated: 02/23/2014 20:50 | By Agence France-Presse

China's foreign minister makes rare visit to Iraq

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi arrived in Baghdad Sunday for talks on issues ranging from trade to arming Iraq's hard-pressed security forces, the first such visit in more than a decade.

China's foreign minister makes rare visit to Iraq

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi (left) shakes hands with his Afghan counterpart Zarar Ahmad Usmani at the foreign ministry in Kabul on February 22, 2014 - by Wakil Kohsar

During a joint news conference, Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari hailed China as "the biggest trade partner for Iraq, and the biggest investor in the oil and electricity sectors".

Chinese companies PetroChina and CNPC have substantial investments in Iraqi oil production, which accounts for the lion's share of government revenue.

Baghdad is seeking to dramatically ramp up its oil sales to fund reconstruction of its battered infrastructure.

Zebari also said Wang's visit included discussions on arming Iraqi security forces, which are struggling to curb a year-long surge in violence that has killed thousands of people.

The situation in Syria, Iraq's civil war-torn neighbour to the west, and Iran to its east, which is negotiating with world powers including China on its controversial nuclear programme, were also discussed.

It was "the first visit to Baghdad by a high-ranking Chinese official since 2003", the Iraqi foreign ministry said in a statement on its website.

It follows a trip by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov for talks that also included Syria and weapons purchases.

The issue of American weapons deliveries provides an opening in Iraq for other countries to make gains in diplomatic and military ties, a situation Baghdad could also seek to use as leverage with Washington.

Iraqi officials have been angered by delays in the delivery of some US weapons over concerns about potential abuses, and has sought to bolster its forces with purchases made from elsewhere.

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