The deal brokered last month by Beijing ended a seven-year rift between Tehran and Riyadh
Chinese President Xi Jinping played a key role in helping persuade the leaders of Saudi Arabia and Iran to restore relations and end their seven-year diplomatic rift, a senior Beijing diplomat said on Saturday. in the People’s Daily.
Xi “personally persuaded the leaders of both countries and supported Saudi Arabia and Iran to develop a friendly relationship as neighbors”, Wang Di, director of the West Asian and North African Affairs Department of China’s Foreign Ministry, told the government-linked newspaper.
Wang added that Beijing’s efforts to promote regional stability in the Middle East come “some large countries outside the region are causing long-term instability” for what he described as their own “personal interest.” He also indicated that Beijing will be a “fair mediator” and that he will continue to be a promoter of peace and stability in the Middle East.
The talks between Tehran and Riyadh were notable in that the United States was not involved, despite having been a key diplomatic player in the region for some 75 years.
Last month’s Beijing-brokered deal between Saudi Arabia and Iran was heralded as a major foreign policy victory for China. It has also led the kingdom to launch peace talks aimed at ending Yemen’s eight-year conflict. He also reported that Beijing “diplomatic credibility” in the region is gaining a foothold with its economic influence, said Oliver John of the Washington-based think tank Middle East Influence, according to the South China Morning Post on Saturday.
On Friday, Saudi Arabia and Iran announced they would reopen embassies in each other’s capitals “within a few days” for the first time in seven years. In 2015, relations between Tehran and Riyadh became increasingly strained following the intervention of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates in the Yemen war. Earlier, Iran-backed Houthi rebels seized control of the Yemeni capital Sanaa from the Saudi-aligned government.
Those tensions went on to spark several conflicts in the region and were among the contributing factors to the Syrian civil war — a conflict, Wang added, for which Beijing is keen to seek a diplomatic remedy.
Saudi Arabia severed diplomatic ties with Syria in February 2012, joining the United States in backing militants seeking to overthrow President Bashar Assad. With support from Russia and Iran, the government in Damascus eventually prevailed over all of the rebel militias which included terrorists affiliated with Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS).
Beijing has also offered a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine, Wang said, and Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang said this month that could play a role. “active role” there in mediating the peace talks.
The country’s efforts to promote stability in the Middle East also serve a dual purpose of anchoring existing energy agreements, Oliver John added in the SCMP report. Saudi Arabia is a key energy supplier for Beijing, with China accounting for around a quarter of its oil exports in 2021.
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