Chinese President Xi Jinping is due to arrive Kingdom Saudi Arabia Thursday on a two-day state visit amid high tensions between the United States and the two countries, according to a source familiar with the trip, an Arab diplomatic source, and two senior Arab officials.
Xi’s trip to Riyadh includes a Arab China The summit and the China-Gulf Cooperation Council conference, according to the four sources.
No fewer than 14 Arab heads of state are expected to attend the Sino-Arab summit, according to the Arab diplomatic source, who described the visit as a “milestone” for Arab-Chinese relations.
The sources spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.
Rumors of a Chinese presidential visit to the largest US ally in the Middle East have been circulating for months, but it has not been confirmed by the governments of Saudi Arabia and China.
Beijing has not made an official announcement that Xi will visit Saudi Arabia. Asked about the possible trip during a regular briefing at the Foreign Ministry on Tuesday, spokeswoman Mao Ning said she did not have any information to provide.
Last week, the Saudi government sent registration forms to journalists to cover the summit, without confirming exact dates. The Saudi government refused to respond to CNN’s request for information about Xi’s visit and the planned summits.
Reports of the long-awaited visit come against the backdrop of a number of rifts the United States fears toward both Beijing and Riyadh, which to Washington’s chagrin have only led to a warming of relations in recent years.
The US and Saudi Arabia remain embroiled in a heated row over oil production, which culminated in October with strong rhetoric and tit-for-tat when the Saudi-led OPEC+ oil cartel cut production by 2 million barrels per day in an effort to “stabilize” prices. . The decision was made despite the intense US campaign against it.
Saudi Arabia, as a staunch ally of the United States for eight long decades, has become bitter about what it perceives as the diminishing American security presence in the region, especially amid growing threats from Iran and its armed Yemeni proxies.
China is an economic giant in the east, at odds with the United States over Taiwan, which US President Joe Biden has repeatedly vowed to protect in the event of a Chinese attack. This thorny topic has exacerbated the uneasy relationship between Washington and Beijing, which are already vying for influence in the volatile Middle East.
At a time when America’s allies in the Arab Gulf accuse Washington of defaulting on its security guarantees in the region, China is working to strengthen its relations with the Gulf states, as well as with the enemies of the United States, Iran and Russia.
China and Saudi Arabia have taken different positions towards the West regarding the Ukraine war. Both have refrained from endorsing sanctions on Russia, and Riyadh has repeatedly emphasized that Moscow is a major energy production partner that should be consulted on OPEC+ decisions. After last month’s massive oil cut, some US officials accused Saudi Arabia of siding with Russia and aiding President Vladimir Putin in his war on Ukraine.
Saudi officials denied arming the oil or siding with Russia.
Biden said in October that the US should “rethink” its relationship with Saudi Arabia, which the president apparently tried to repair on a visit to Riyadh in July. After vowing to turn the kingdom into a “pariah” and condemning Crown Prince and de facto ruler Mohammed bin Salman for the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Biden traveled to Riyadh amid global oil shortages and greeted bin Salman with a fist of global headlines.
However, the frigid visit ultimately did not result in any increases in oil production but only exacerbated tensions.
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