Regional rivals Iran and Saudi Arabia have signed a China-brokered agreement to restore diplomatic relations, ending a seven-year dispute following Riyadh’s execution of a prominent Shia Muslim cleric.
Known for angry outbursts against the West, threats against Taiwan, territorial disputes in the South China Sea, and a refusal to condemn Russia over Ukraine, president Xi Jinping has shown a different side of Chinese diplomacy.
Under the deal on Friday (March 10, 2023), Saudi Arabia and Iran agreed to reopen their embassies and exchange ambassadors.
“I think it is a sign that China is increasingly confident in taking a more assertive role in the Middle East,” Muhammad Zulfikar Rakhmat, an academic at the Washington-based Middle East Institute, told The Associated Press.
Xi made a state visit to Saudi Arabia at the invitation of King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud last December and hosted Iran’s president Ebrahim Raisi in Beijing last month.
Xi’s diplomatic victory comes as Washington has heavily criticized China for failing to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and for accusing the U.S. and NATO of provoking the conflict.