A landmark agreement between Saudi Arabia and Iran mediated by China to resume diplomatic ties and reopen embassies and mission within two months after seven years of no diplomatic ties between the two, was reached in Beijing on Friday, which experts hailed as a milestone in helping de-escalate tensions and restore peace in the Middle East as well as inject stability into a volatile geopolitical landscape.
The role that China plays in helping the two countries, which are long-term rivals, reach the agreement won widespread praise around the world after its announcement. This also showed that China’s diplomatic philosophy that aims to promote peace and development is much more appealing than some countries’ tactics of fueling confrontation to expand their own political domain in the Gulf region, experts told the Global Times on Saturday.
Experts pointed out that this is also one of the best practices under the Global Security Initiative (GSI) that China proposed and it could have a far-reaching implications and demonstrative effect on other regions that face similar problems of confrontation and conflict.
Spokesperson of China’s Foreign Ministry said on Saturday that “China looks forward to seeing closer communication and dialogue between Saudi Arabia and Iran and stands ready to continue playing a positive and constructive role in facilitating such efforts.”
“Their dialogue and the agreement set a good example of how countries in the region can resolve disputes and differences and achieve good neighborliness and friendship through dialogue and consultation. This will help regional countries to get rid of external interference and take the future into their own hands,” said the spokesperson, noting that China will continue to contribute its insights and proposals to realizing peace and tranquility in the Middle East.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Friday welcomed the deal and praised China, Oman and Iraq for promoting the talks. Countries including Qatar, the UAE, Iraq, Oman, Lebanon, Bahrain among many others also expressed positive sentiments toward the two countries’ decision to resume diplomatic ties, Reuters reported.
The talks to resume diplomatic relations were conducted in Beijing from March 6 to 10, according to a trilateral statement from China, Saudi Arabia and Iran, Xinhua reported.
“Both Saudi Arabia and Iran extended their appreciation and thanks to Iraq and Oman for hosting multiple rounds of dialogue between 2021 and 2022, and to Chinese leaders and the Chinese government for hosting, supporting and contributing to the success of the talks,” the statement said.
While congratulating the two sides on taking a historical step forward, Wang Yi, director of the Office of the Foreign Affairs Commission of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, said China supports the two sides in making firm strides as agreed in the deal to work for the common bright future with patience and wisdom.
“As a reliable friend of the two countries, China will continue to play a constructive role,” said Wang, also a member of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee.
Saudi Arabia cut diplomatic ties with Iran in early 2016 in response to the attacks on Saudi diplomatic missions in Iran after the kingdom executed a Shiite cleric. The fierce geopolitical competition surrounding the situations in Yemen, Syria, Lebanon and other countries has led to confrontation across the Middle East.
Zhu Weilie, director of the Middle East Studies Institute at Shanghai International Studies University, told the Global Times on Saturday that the sense of pursuing independent diplomacy in the Middle East region is on the rise in the recent years.
China’s diplomatic approach of non-interference in other country’s internal affairs, not filling power vacuums or seeking hegemony while promoting dialogue and consultation to address issues is being well-received across the region.
In December last year, the China-Arab States Summit and the China-Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Summit were held during Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to Saudi Arabia.
Zhu noted that an important reason for Saudi Arabia and Iran to agree to resume ties is that both sides trust China. “They believe that what China does is not for the selfish interests or hegemony, but for the good of regional stability.”
Experts pointed out that the way China handled this issue is different from the US which tends to fuel flames and sow discord for selfish gains.
“There has been a question hanging in the process of global governance ¬- is it better to form coalitions and seek proxies to fight wars or to promote peace talks and direct dialogue between the two sides to find a solution that suits both sides? China will not seek a proxy,” Zhu said.
Hussein Ibish, a senior resident scholar at the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington, said in a CNN interview that “The fact that it has been agreed to in Beijing is very significant for China and its rise as a diplomatic and strategic player in the Gulf region,”
“This does seem to recognize China’s unique role in being able to broker relations between Tehran and Riyadh, stepping into a position that had previously been occupied by European countries, if not the United States, and this will not be particularly pleasing to Washington,” said Ibish.
The US was reportedly cautious in responding to the new agreement. According to Zhu, this year, several senior US officials have visited the Middle East to try to incite regional countries to maintain confrontation against Iran. On March 7, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin made a visit to Iraq and announced the US wanted to keep its troops in the country.
Observers noted that the execution of the agreement and whether other regional countries will follow their lead to ease tensions with Iran remained a key sticking point.
Zhu noted that the deal set a positive example for other regional hotspot issues, such as the easing and settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. And in the future, China could play an important role in building a bridge for countries to solve long-standing thorny issues in the Middle East just as what it did this time.
“China is willing to help build a bridge, a mechanism and platform for multilateral dialogue to address the regional issues. If they can’t have a good talk at home, they are welcomed to come to China for talks. China’s sincerity on helping ease the regional tension can be seen by the world this time,” Zhu said.
Source: Global Times – https://www.globaltimes.cn/page/202303/1287105.shtml