China’s Xi speaks with Saudi crown prince, supports Saudi-Iran talks

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On Tuesday, China’s state media CCTV reported that President Xi Jinping had a phone conversation with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud, discussing several topics, including support for further discussions between Saudi Arabia and Iran. China’s increasing influence in the Middle East, which is being closely monitored by the United States, was highlighted earlier this month when Xi facilitated an unexpected agreement between the rival nations of Iran and Saudi Arabia to restore diplomatic relations.

According to Saudi state news agency SPA, Prince Mohammed, who serves as both the prime minister and crown prince of Saudi Arabia, expressed gratitude towards China’s initiative to encourage the development of harmonious relations between Sunni Muslim Saudi Arabia and Shi’ite Iran. The leaders of both nations emphasized the significance of their strategic alliance, as Saudi Arabia is the largest oil exporter in the world and China is a key trade partner of Gulf states.

Xi said the two countries will firmly support each other on issues involving their respective core interests, and make more contributions to promote peace, stability and development in the Middle East, state media reported.

Earlier this week, oil giant Saudi Aramco raised its multi-billion dollar investment in China with two deals that are the biggest to be announced since Xi visited the kingdom in December, where he attended a summit with Gulf Arab leaders.

Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states have voiced concern about perceived disengagement by main security guarantor the United States from the region and have moved to diversify partners with an eye on national economic and security interests.

The foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia and Iran are expected to meet during the ongoing Muslim holy month of Ramadan after Riyadh and Tehran agreed, following talks in Beijing, to revive relations after years of hostility that had threatened stability in the Gulf and helped fuel conflicts in the Middle East.

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