China joins international efforts to defuse Saudi-Iran crisis

China joins international efforts to defuse Saudi-Iran crisis
Beijing calls upon Saudi Arabia and Iran to safeguard regional peace in a statement issued by Chinese government on Monday, as fears grow over the region's stability.
3 min read
11 January, 2016
China calls for calm and restraint amid Saudi-Iran diplomatic rift [Getty]
A Chinese envoy called for "calm and restraint" between Saudi Arabia and Iran following visits to both countries last week, China's government said on Monday.

The Chinese deputy foreign minister, Zhang Ming, met with senior Saudi and Iranian officials during visits to each country last week, China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs reported.

While in Saudi Arabia, Ming expressed hope for calm and restraint from all relevant parties, the statement said.

Ming urged for a resolution of differences through dialogue, and joint efforts to push the situation towards detente, the statement added.

The deputy foreign minister repeated calls for restraint during his subsequent visit Iran.

There, Ming called on all parties to work together to safeguard regional peace and stability, the foreign ministry's statement said.

The Chinese economy is notably dependent on Middle-Eastern supplies for oil and other energy resources.

It is currently engaged in a major $46 billion dollar infrastructure project that will join the Gulf region to China through a new network of highways and railways leading to Pakistan's Gwadar Port.

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Stability in Middle-Eastern energy markets remains a foreign policy objective.

The diplomatic rupture between Saudi Arabia and Iran that erupted in the first days of 2016 has become a highly consequential geo-political development in the Middle East.

Saudi Arabia cut off diplomatic ties with Iran in the days that followed it's execution of Saudi Shia cleric Nimr al-Nimr and the subsequent attack on the Saudi embassy in Tehran.

Saudi's allies in the Gulf region, including UAE, Bahrain, Sudan, Qatar, Kuwait also embarked on a diplomatic rupture with Iran.

Meanwhile the Iranian foreign minister, Jawad Zarif, called for a promotion of regional stability in an opinion-piece published in the New York Times.

"Unfortunately, some countries stand in the way of constructive engagement," Zarif said, "Today, some in Riyadh not only continue to impede normalisation but are determined to drag the entire region into confrontation."

Zarif called upon Saudi leadership to work constructively to promote regional stability.

"[The Saudi leadership] can continue supporting extremists and promoting sectarian hatred or they can opt to play a constructive role in promoting regional stability," Zarif added.

Zarif's comments followed those of Saudi defence minister and deputy crown prince Muhammad bin Salman who asserted that tensions must not escalate any further.

"Iranian escalation has already reached very high levels and we try as hard as we can to not escalate anything further, we only deal with the procedures and steps taken against us." Salman said in an interview with the Economist last week.

Salman stressed that Saudi Arabi does not want a war with Iran.

"It is something that we do not foresee at all, and whoever is pushing towards that is somebody who is not in their right mind,"Salman said, "A war between Saudi Arabia and Iran is the beginning of a major catastrophe in the region, and it will reflect very strongly on the rest of the world. For sure we will not allow any such thing."