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Chinese president pays landmark visit to EU headquarters

Chinese leader Xi Jinping has visited European Union headquarters in Brussels. The visit has been hailed as a "historic" moment in China-EU ties.

Chinese President Xi Jinping on Monday held landmark talks with EU President Herman Van Rompuy and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso in what is the first-ever visit by a Chinese head of state to the EU's institutions in the Belgian capital, Brussels.

In a joint statement issued after the meeting, both sides said they would continue to work towards improving China-EU relations, which have often been troubled by disagreements over issues such as trade, human rights and the conflict in Syria.

"The two sides renewed their pledge to work for further progress in EU-China relations over the next decade to the benefit of the people of the EU and China and in the interest of world peace and prosperity," the statement said.

The 20-point statement referred to civil rights as well, saying both sides would "deepen exchanges on human rights... on the basis of equality and mutual respect."

The talks also touched on

the crisis in Ukraine.

'More trust'

Xi also met with European Parliament President Martin Schulz, who called for more trust between the bloc and the Asian giant.

"For our relations to flourish, dialogue and trust must be reinforced in all their dimensions: political, parliamentary, commercial and human rights," Schulz said in a statement.

He added that the Chinese leadership seemed committed to "an open and direct dialogue."

Economic focus

Xi's 11-day maiden four-country trip to Europe, which winds up on Tuesday, has, however, been dominated by

economic issues,

in light of the fact that the EU is China's biggest trading partner.

The joint statement raised the long-term prospect of a free trade deal "once the conditions are right." The two sides are currently negotiating an investment agreement which European politicians and businesses hope will improve access to China's economy.

On Tuesday Xi is due to hold a speech on EU-China relations at the College of Europe in the northern Belgian city of Bruges, and to visit a Chinese-owned Volvo factory in Ghent that produces cars for the Chinese market.

Xi's visit has also taken him to the Netherlands, France and

Germany.

tj/dr (AFP, dpa)

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