Expert: Saudi-Iran decision to resume ties a victory for China's constructive diplomacy

The decision by Iran and Saudi Arabia to resume diplomatic relations after China-mediated talks is a victory for China's constructive diplomacy, a Middle East expert said on Saturday.

After years of bitter rivalry in the Middle East region, Iran and Saudi Arabia, the two key regional powers, have agreed to re-establish ties and reopen embassies within two months, according to a joint statement issued on Friday by China, Iran and Saudi Arabia.

The statement was released after Saudi Arabia, led by Minister of State Musaad bin Mohammed Al-Aiban, and Iran, led by Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council Ali Shamkhani, held talks in Beijing from March 6 to 10 which were brokered by China.

Iran and Saudi Arabia also agreed to adhere to the purposes and principles of the UN Charter, resolve the disagreements between them through dialogue and diplomacy, respect the sovereignty of states and not interfere in internal affairs of states, says the statement.

"The highlight of the trilateral joint statement lies in Beijing," Li Shaoxian, dean of China-Arab States Institute in China's Ningxia University told China Media Group, as the decision to reestablish diplomatic ties between Iran and Saudi Arabia was pushed forward by China.

China's senior diplomat Wang Yi, a member of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee and director of the Office of the Foreign Affairs Commission of the CPC Central Committee, on Friday said the deal "represents the successful practice of the Global Security Initiative proposed by China," hailing it "a victory for dialogue, a victory for peace." 

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'A victory for peace': Wang Yi hails Saudi-Iran decision to resume ties

"Beyond that, this is also a victory for China's constructive diplomacy," Li noted. 

In terms of the influence Iran and Saudi Arabia resuming diplomatic ties could have on the Middle East situation, he said Iran and Saudi Arabia are the two most important powers in Middle East and the Gulf region and their relationship is vital to regional peace and stability.

There were international predictions that the Gulf region was among one of the six areas in the world most likely to experience conflict in 2023, he said. "Now that Saudi Arabia and Iran have agreed to restore diplomatic ties, the possibility of a new round of tensions in the Gulf region has been greatly reduced."

Their dialogue and the agreement also set a good example of how Middle Eastern countries can resolve disputes and differences through dialogue and consultation, according to Li, who noted that challenges in the region, such as the ongoing Syrian crisis and Palestine-Israel conflict, remain unresolved.

The academic said external intervention is the largest contributor to making Middle East a powder keg, and underscored the significance of the people and countries in the region grasping their own fate. And Iran and Saudi Arabia's decision to restore diplomatic relations is "a very important step forward" for Middle Eastern countries to take charge of their own destiny, he added.

Li's analysis echoed comments by China's Foreign Ministry.

"I want to stress that China pursues no selfish interest whatsoever in the Middle East," a spokesperson for the ministry said on Saturday when detailing the Saudi-Iran talks in Beijing.

"China has no intention to and will not seek to fill a so-called vacuum or put up exclusive blocs," as it "always believes that the future of the Middle East should always be in the hands of the countries in the region," said the spokesperson. 

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MOFA: Saudi-Iran talks set an example for the region to resolve disputes

(Cover: Wang Yi, Musaad bin Mohammed Al-Aiban and Ali Shamkhani meet in Beijing, China, March 10, 2023. /Chinese Foreign Ministry)

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