Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived in Saudi Arabia on Tuesday as part of a five-day Middle East trip that will also include visits to Egypt and Iran.
Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman greeted the Chinese leader and his delegation, according to the state-run Saudi Press Agency. While in Riyadh, Xi will meet with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman, the leaders of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and the chiefs of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).
China’s state-run Xinhua news agency reported that Saudi Arabia is the number-one supplier of crude oil to China. Xi will utilize his meetings with Saudi officials to highlight this relationship and encourage future trade between the two nations, according to reports.
“Since China and Saudi Arabia forged diplomatic ties 26 years ago, our relationship has developed by leaps and bounds, with mutual political trust deepening continuously and rich results in cooperation in various fields,” Xi said in remarks recorded by Xinhua.
Xi predicted a future relationship with the Gulf States that would be “conducive to lifting our cooperation in various fields to a new level and to elevating the collective cooperation between China and GCC nations.”
Salman told Xi, according to Saudi Press Agency: “The kingdom and China both work towards world stability, peace and security. And the kingdom appreciates your efforts towards this.”
King Salman and President Xi will open a joint venture refinery on Wednesday in Riyadh, which was developed by Saudi Arabia’s state-owned Aramco and China’s state-owned China Petrochemical Corp, according to AFP.
Observers note that China has attempted to restore calm between Saudi Arabia and Iran. The two Islamic nations have indefinitely ended diplomatic ties following Saudi Arabia’s execution of a prominent Shiite cleric. In retaliation, rioters ransacked and firebombed Saudi Arabia’s diplomatic buildings in Tehran, causing international outrage among Sunni nations. Since then, over a dozen nations have either condemned Iran or broke off diplomatic ties with the Ayatollah’s regime.
Chinese Deputy Foreign Minister Zhang Ming has indicated that China will remain neutral amid the Middle East turmoil.
“Regarding some of the region’s problems, China has always taken a balanced and just position… if the Middle East is not stable, I’m afraid the world can’t be very peaceful. If a country or a region is not stable, it cannot realise development,” Zhang said Tuesday.
President Xi will be in Iran from January 22-23. He will become the first Chinese president to visit the country since 2002.