China's president to visit Saudi Arabia, Iran amid dispute

Chinese President Xi Jinping to visit Saudi Arabia, Iran next week as two Middle East rivals embroiled in row

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Chinese President Xi Jinping

Chinese President Xi Jinping is scheduled to make an unusual visit to Saudi Arabia and Iran next week to mediate tension between the two countries, which are in dispute recently as China is seeking for an active diplomatic role in the region.

China is relying on Middle Eastern countries as a source of oil, but it was not interfering with the diplomatic affairs in the region.

Meanwhile, the four other permanent members of the UN Security Council - the United States, Britain, France and Russia are the main countries involved.

However, China has been recently attempting to have an active role, especially in Syria after it hosted the foreign minister of the Syrian regime and the representative figures of the opposition.

Chinese Foreign Ministry said in a brief statement that Xi would visit Saudi Arabia, Iran and Egypt during his Middle East tour, starting on Jan. 19 and ending on Jan. 23.

This will be the first time a Chinese President visits Saudi Arabia since former President Hu Jintao visited in 2009, while the last visit to Iran was by then President Jiang Zemin in 2002. 

Tensions between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Iran have escalated since Saudi authorities executed a Saudi Shiite cleric Nimr al Nimr on Jan. 2, causing an outrage among Shiites across the Middle East.

The strongest criticism came from Iran, as protesters attacked the Saudi embassy in Tehran and its consulate in Mashhad.

In response, Riyadh severed diplomatic relations with Tehran.

A Chinese envoy visited Saudi Arabia and Iran last week calling both countries to ease the tension and the on-going feud.

"China is trying to present itself as an honest broker between Saudi and Iran, much as it has done between the Syrian government and opposition," said one Beijing-based diplomat according to Reuters.

China said this week that it wanted to cooperate with the Arab countries on issues concerning intelligence, training and related matters.

TRTWorld, Reuters