Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Xi Jinping to walk fine line on Middle East visit

Zhuang Pinghui

SOUTH CHINA MORNING - JAN. 20, 2016

China will balance the interests of Saudi Arabia and Iran, while calling for dialogue to resolve tensions, senior diplomat says ahead of state trip

China aims to evenly weigh the interests of Saudi Arabia and Iran as Beijing deepens its role in the region, a top Chinese diplomat said ahead of President Xi Jinping’s first Middle East tour.
Xi will arrive in Saudi Arabia on Tuesday, becoming the first Chinese president to visit the kingdom since 2009. He is also scheduled to visit Egypt and Iran.
The trip comes at a tricky time – Riyadh and Tehran severed diplomatic relations earlier this month over the storming of Saudi Arabia’s embassy in Iran after the kingdom executed a prominent Shiite Muslim cleric. The last state visit to Iran by a Chinese president was in 2002.
“China has always maintained a just and balanced stance and is dedicated to promoting peace and stability in the Middle East,” said Deputy Foreign Minister Zhang Ming on Monday. “China calls for parties involved to resolve conflicts and disputes to promote regional stability, which suits the mutual interests of countries in the region, China and the international community.”
Zhang, who visited Saudi Arabia and Iran earlier this month, said Xi would “exchange opinions on regional disputes with country leaders”.
China intends to sign an action plan to enhance its comprehensive strategic partnership with Saudi Arabia over the next five to 10 years, and establish a strategic partnership with Iran.

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