(Photo Credit: Ng Han Guan/AP)
A high-level gathering of Gulf Arab states and Iranian officials is on track to take place later this year in the Chinese capital Beijing, according to sources that spoke with the Wall Street Journal (WSJ).
Chinese President Xi Jinping pitched the idea for the summit during a regional summit he attended in Riyadh last December. According to the report published on 12 March, the leaders from the six-country Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) welcomed Xi’s proposal to reduce tensions with Iran.
On Friday, Beijing brokered a historic deal to restore relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia. These two superpowers cut ties in 2016 and have historically backed rivaling factions in regional conflicts.
The agreement was praised across the Global South. It was described by many as a significant power play by China in becoming a top power broker in West Asia at a time when US influence continues to diminish.
This reality was made evident during last week’s secret talks between Iranian and Saudi officials in Beijing, where, per the WSJ, “all parties agreed not to use English in the negotiations, with speeches and documents conducted in Arabic, Farsi or Mandarin.”
The agreement gives Riyadh and Tehran two months to hammer out all details before the countries’ foreign ministers meet to sign a finalized deal. Sources say the Iran-GCC summit would occur “sometime after that.”
According to the report, the deal signed on Friday calls – among other things – for Saudi Arabia to order Iran International to “tone-down critical coverage” of the Islamic Republic. At the same time, Tehran reportedly agreed to “stop encouraging cross-border attacks on Saudi Arabia” by Yemen’s Ansarallah resistance movement.
Saudi officials have hopes that Beijing can “use its economic ties to influence Iran’s behavior,” as China remains the biggest importer of Iranian oil.
According to Iran’s state-owned Mehr News Agency, ahead of Friday’s deal, China allowed Tehran to access parts of funds frozen in Chinese banks due to Washington’s “maximum pressure” sanctions campaign.
During his visit to Riyadh in December, Xi called on Arab states to remain “independent and defend their common interests,” adding that China “supports Arab states in independently exploring development paths suited to their national conditions and holding their future firmly in their own hands.”
He also vowed to import more oil and natural gas from Gulf Arab states while not interfering in their affairs, a departure from Washington’s long-standing policy of interference and domination.