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Saudi Arabia, Iran agree to normalize relations at meetup in China

Saudi Arabia, Iran agree to normalize relations at meetup in China

Posted March. 13, 2023 07:41,   

Updated March. 13, 2023 07:41


A war of nerves is unfolding between the United States and China after the latter announced that it mediated the relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran, which have long been at odds with each other. While Saudi Arabia, one of Washington’s global allies, has been drifting apart, Beijing intends to play an active role as a mediator in mitigating regional tension across the Middle East.

Major global news outlets including Iranian and Saudi Arabian media reported on Friday that the two countries agreed to restore their diplomatic relations and reopen their embassies in their counterpart country. The normalization of their diplomatic relations occurred for the first time in seven years. Around January 2016, Saudi Arabia arrested leading Shia leaders of Iran and executed some of them despite Iran’s strong opposition, followed by the Iran Shia sect’s strikes on the Embassy of Saudi Arabia in Iran. The result was the severance of their relations.

The two countries spent four days starting last Monday talking about the normalization of their relations in Beijing where the National People’s Congress gathered. In a statement issued by the Saudi Arabian and Iranian governments on Friday, they expressed their gratitude toward Chinese government leaders for arranging the meeting. China's highest-ranked diplomat Wang Yi, director of the Office of the Central Foreign Affairs Commission of the Chinese Communist Party, commented the same day that the dialogue in Beijing was arranged based on the common consensus built among the three governments, while describing it as a significant achievement.

In response, Washington welcomed the news but did not hide its discomfort. It has carried out policies toward the Middle East, also dubbed the powder keg of the world, working with its closest regional ally of Saudi Arabia. John Kirby, coordinator for Strategic Communications at the National Security Council, said on Friday in a telephone briefing that Washington endorses all kinds of efforts to ease tension in the region. Nevertheless, it tried to underestimate the results by clarifying that Iran came to the negotiating table because of external and internal pressures, not at the invitation of China calling for dialogue and negotiation. Asked if China is cementing its presence while U.S. influence is decreasing across the Middle East, he strongly disagreed with the statement that Washington is fading away from the region.

Sung-Hwi Kang yolo@donga.com