Q&A: What role did China play in mediating between Iran and Saudi Arabia detente – Times of India

BEIJING: The detente between Tehran and Riyadh last week was all the more surprising because of the third party acting as a mediator: China.
China — a longtime partner of Iran that considers Saudi Arabia its largest source of foreign oil — played host to a deal to ease the years-long diplomatic deadlock between its Middle Eastern rivals. It was an unusual role for Beijing, which has rarely used its clout as the world’s No. 2 economy to push into global hot spots.
While Washington’s absence from the talks raised questions about US leadership, China’s involvement seemed primarily to provide neutral territory after talks were already well underway. Here’s what we know so far:
1. What role did China play?
Beijing provided the physical venue for representatives from both sides to close the deal, which comes in the weeks after Chinese President Xi Jinping held face-to-face meetings with both Saudi crown princes. Mohammed bin Salman and Iranian leader Ebrahim Raisi.
China’s top diplomat, Wang Yi, presided over the opening and closing of talks, which produced a three-pronged statement announcing the decision to restore diplomatic ties, including reopening diplomatic missions within two months. Iran and Saudi Arabia also agreed to implement a security cooperation agreement signed early last year.
2. What does this mean for China’s diplomatic clout?
The deal helps bolster China’s reputation as a responsible player on the global stage following US-led allegations over its human rights practices and military plans against Taiwan. Wang described the agreement as a “victory of dialogue and peace”. But there is also widespread skepticism: Many observers said it would take time to see if the pact holds.
Beijing does not have a long history of negotiating groundbreaking agreements. The 2017 Myanmar peace proposal never gained traction. More recently, China’s blueprint to end Russia’s war in Ukraine has been widely rejected by Western governments who question Beijing’s ability to be a fair broker, especially given the “no borders” policy. relationship between Xi and President Vladimir Putin.
3. What does it mean for Xi’s global ambitions?
Xi has long sought to create an alternative world order to challenge the US and its allies and the deal between Tehran and Riyadh helps show that Washington need not be at the center of major geostrategic breakthroughs.
Initially focused on building economic ties through its pioneering Belt-and-Road infrastructure lending program, a key component of Xi’s strategy now includes expanding China’s diplomatic influence to countries in the Middle East, Latin America and Africa. On the world stage, the Iran-Saudi deal may give China more credibility with countries in those regions.
4. Who benefits politically from the agreement?
In addition to bolstering China’s diplomatic credentials and potentially lowering the temperature between two well-armed rivals, the deal gives all three countries involved a chance to demonstrate that you can solve problems without US interference, something China and China Saudi Arabia would have liked to have shown.
Iran — still under punitive sanctions on its nuclear program and facing criticism for its crackdown on protesters — said it hopes the deal will help it restore ties with more Arab countries. Economically, it could benefit both Iran and Saudi Arabia by attracting more Chinese investment. And the deal could even help foster peace in Yemen, torn by a civil strife seen as a proxy war between Tehran and Riyadh.
But the deal also provides an interesting balancing act for Crown Prince Mohammed, who has helped refocus his economy more on Asia while chafing US criticism of his country’s human rights record. But Saudi Arabia still relies on US firepower for its military, a reality that is unlikely to change anytime soon. And the deal risks a fragile working relationship the Saudis — tacitly supported by Washington — have built with Israel, which still sees Iran as enemy number one.
5. How did the US react?
While some analysts said the deal showed Washington’s influence diminishing in a region in which it has long played a pivotal role, the reality may be less clear. The US has almost no direct communication with Iran, so serving as a mediator between Tehran and Saudi Arabia would be an unlikely role.
That said, the White House said it would welcome the deal if it helps end the war in Yemen. However, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby added that “it really remains to be seen whether Iran will live up to its commitments.”

Source link


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here