Saudi Arabia preparing 'Trump-style reception' for China's President Xi amid US-Saudi relations rupture
Chinese President Xi Jinping has been invited to Saudi Arabia, in a sign of ever-growing ties between the two countries and a further dampening of Riyadh's relations with the US, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Sources who spoke to WSJ said that the trip, which will include talks with Mohammed bin Salman (MbS), is believed to be planned for after the month of Ramadan, which is scheduled to begin in early April.
"The crown prince and Xi are close friends and both understand that there is huge potential for stronger ties," a Saudi official told The Wall Street Journal.
"It is not just 'they buy oil from us and we buy weapons from them'," they added.
The Chinese premier's visit will be his first overseas trip since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.
It also comes amid a thawing of relations between Saudi Arabia and the US, as China increases its foothold in the Gulf region.
Riyadh intends to give the Chinese president the same sort of grand reception granted to former President Donald Trump in 2017, seen as a pivotal moment in US-Saudi relations.
While Trump and MbS shared a strong friendship despite criticism of Saudi's human rights record, the war in Yemen and the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, the Biden administration has remained reticent about continuing these close ties.
During his campaign for the White House, Biden reportedly called Saudi Arabia a "pariah" state.
Recently in Riyadh, MbS reportedly refused a call with the US president, who was hoping to persuade the oil-rich nation to increase production.
Saudi Arabia has rejected requests to increase oil production, as prices rocketed over Russia's war on Ukraine, which China has refrained from strongly condemning.
The planned trip by President Xi will be his first trip to the Gulf kingdom since 2016, and the first time the two leaders will meet in person since a 2019 trip that MbS took to Beijing to sign energy and trade deals.