March 25, 2023

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‘A victory for peace’: China helps broker Iran-Saudi diplomatic agreement

Iran and Saudi Arabia have agreed to resume diplomatic relations after four days of intensive previously undisclosed talks in Beijing and seven years after ties were cut.

The agreement, which was reached between China, Iran and Saudi Arabia in the Chinese capital this week, marks a diplomatic victory for the Chinese authorities as the war in Ukraine enters a second year and Beijing’s role in the conflict comes under intense international scrutiny.

Top security officials from Tehran and Riyadh held four days of talks from Monday in Beijing, with Iran, Saudi Arabia and China signing a joint statement in a ceremony on Friday.

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“As a result of the talks, Iran and Saudi Arabia agreed to resume diplomatic relations and reopen embassies … within two months,” Iranian news agency IRNA reported.

In a statement on its website, the Chinese foreign ministry quoted top diplomat Wang Yi as saying the agreement represented “a victory of dialogue and peace”.

“This shows that the Ukraine issue is not the only problem the world faces today,” Wang said.

“[We face] many problems related to peace and people’s livelihood that deserve international attention, and timely handling by the relevant stakeholders.

“But regardless of their complexity and difficulties, they can be resolved through dialogue on equal footing and with mutual respect.”

Wang said Chinese President Xi Jinping guided the talks from the beginning, and the agreement between the three parties was testimony to the merits of Beijing’s “recent proposal” on handling international affairs.

Saudi Arabia severed ties with Iran in 2016 after the storming of its embassy in Tehran in an escalating row between the two countries over Riyadh’s execution of a Shi’ite Muslim cleric.

Saudi Arabia’s state news agency said the two states agreed that their foreign ministers would meet to implement the agreement, arrange for their ambassadors to take up posts in the respective capitals, and discuss ways to improve relations.

In addition, the statement said the agreement included “their affirmation of the respect for the sovereignty of states and the non-interference in internal affairs”.

“The two sides also expressed their appreciation and gratitude to the leadership and government of the People’s Republic of China for hosting and sponsoring the talks, and the efforts it placed towards its success,” the Saudi Press Agency said in a statement.

Iran was represented at the talks by Ali Shamkhani, secretary of the Supreme National Security Council, while Musaed bin Mohammed Al-Aiban, Saudi Arabia’s national security adviser, led the Saudi delegation.

Reuters quoted a White House national security spokesman as saying the United States was aware of reports of the agreement and welcomed any efforts to help end war in Yemen and de-escalate tensions in the Middle East.

A Beijing-based Middle East expert said the agreement underscored Beijing’s growing influence in the region.

Wang Wen, executive dean of the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at Renmin University, said China had overtaken the United States in terms of positive influence in the Middle East.

“The US has played more of a negative and destructive role for a long time there,” Wang Wen said.

“President Xi Jinping paid a state visit to Saudi Arabia last year and the Iranian president visited China recently. This series of mediation efforts has achieved very good results.

“China has always been a force for peace in the region.”

Additional reporting by Liu Zhen

This article originally appeared in the South China Morning Post (SCMP), the most authoritative voice reporting on China and Asia for more than a century. For more SCMP stories, please explore the SCMP app or visit the SCMP’s Facebook and Twitter pages. Copyright © 2023 South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.

Copyright (c) 2023. South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.

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