BELGRADE – President Xi Jinping received a medal symbolizing Serbia’s highest award on Saturday during his state visit to the country.

Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic held a ceremony to present the Order of the Republic of Serbia on a Grand Collar to Xi, who is on a three-day visit that started Friday.
As Serbia’s highest award, the honorary medal had only been granted once — to Russia’s President Vladimir Putin in 2014 — before it was awarded to Xi.

China and Serbia are “all-weather friends” and have a “special brotherly bond,” and both sides should expand their ties, Xi said.

Xi called on both sides to adhere to the principles of mutual respect, equality and mutual benefit, make ties more strategic and comprehensive and expand practical cooperation in various fields to promote all-round and in-depth development of the China-Serbia relationship.

China highly values its friendship with Serbia and cherishes the good momentum of vigorous development of bilateral ties, Xi stressed.

As an old friend and true friend, Serbia is glad to see China’s great achievements in socialist development and reform and opening-up, Nikolic said, stressing that both sides should firmly support each other on issues of core interest and major concern.

Xi and Nikolic stressed that the time-honored traditional friendship and the special friendly sentiments between their two countries are forged with blood and lives, and will be passed down for generations.

China and Serbia will join hands in promoting development and peace, the two presidents said.

On Friday, Xi paid homage to the Chinese martyrs killed in the NATO bombing of the former Chinese embassy in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in May 1999.

In 2009, Serbia became the first country in Central or Eastern Europe to establish a strategic partnership with China.

n September last year, Nikolic and troops from Serbia attended the parade in Beijing marking the 70th anniversary of victory in the World Anti-Fascist War, also known as World War II.