(Riyadh) Chinese president offered Saudi crown prince last year to serve as ‘bridge’ between Saudi Arabia and Iran, facilitating talks that resulted in restoring diplomatic ties between the two countries, official says Saudi.
Xi Jinping approached Prince Mohammed bin Salman about Iran during his visit to the kingdom in December, the official said on condition of anonymity on Wednesday.
The Chinese leader “expressed his wish to see China serve as a bridge between Saudi Arabia and Iran. His Royal Highness, the Crown Prince, welcomed it,” he said.
The agreement between the two rival powers, announced on March 10 in Beijing, provides for the mutual reopening of embassies within two months, after a seven-year break, as well as a commitment by each to respect the sovereignty of the other and not to interfere in its “internal affairs”.
“For Iran in particular, China is the first or second international partner. His influence is significant in this regard and there cannot be” another mediator with the same weight, the official said.
According to him, several meetings made it possible to prepare the ground, in particular a brief exchange between the heads of Saudi and Iranian diplomacy in Jordan at the end of December, a meeting between the Saudi Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Iranian Vice-President during the inauguration of the Brazilian President in January and Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi’s visit to Beijing in February.
China “is a major player in the security and stability of the Gulf”, he insisted.
“The United States and China are both very important partners,” the Saudi official said, adding that his country does not want “to be part of any competition or dispute between the two superpowers.”
US officials were briefed before the Saudi delegation visited Beijing and before the deal was announced, he said.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday cautiously praised the mediation of US rival China, saying it was beneficial for the region.
“From our point of view, anything that can help reduce tensions, avoid conflict and deter Iran from dangerous and destabilizing actions is a good thing,” Blinken said while visiting Ethiopia.
The talks in Beijing featured “five very in-depth sessions” on thorny issues, including the war in Yemen.
The Saudi official claimed that the talks resulted in “concrete commitments” on Yemen.
“Iran is the main supplier of weapons, training programs and propaganda expertise to the Houthis, and we are the main victim of these missiles, drones and the like. So Iran can do a lot, and should do a lot,” he said, adding that Iran must stop “supplying the Houthis with weapons.”
The Saudi official confirmed that Riyadh had started “indirect” talks with Yemeni rebels aimed at reviving the truce that expired in October and fostering a political settlement involving all Yemeni factions.
Saudi Arabia will not tolerate any threats on its long border with Yemen, the Saudi official stressed, hoping that Iran will play “a major role” there.
The two sides also renewed in Beijing their commitment not to attack each other through the media, he continued, clarifying that Saudi Arabia does not control Iran International TV.
The Persian-language channel, which recently moved from London to Washington, is considered a “terrorist organization” by Tehran, which has accused Saudi Arabia of funding it.
“We continue to assert that this is not a Saudi media […]. This is a private investment,” the Saudi official said.
A meeting between the Saudi and Iranian foreign ministers is planned, but no date has been set, he added.