China is claiming it had no ulterior motives in brokering Friday’s peace talks between Iran and Saudi Arabia that saw the two Middle Eastern countries reestablish diplomatic ties after years of hostility.
A spokesperson from the country’s Foreign Ministry said Saturday that China “pursues no selfish interest whatsoever in the Middle East.”
“We respect the stature of Middle East countries as the masters of the region and oppose geopolitical competition in the Middle East,” the statement read. “China has no intention to and will not seek to fill [a] so-called vacuum or put up exclusive blocks.”
Friday’s agreement to reestablish Iran-Saudi ties and reopen embassies after seven years was seen as a major diplomatic victory for China, as Gulf Arab states perceive the United States as reducing its presence in the Middle East.
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China’s senior diplomat Wang Yi said the agreement showed China was a “reliable mediator” that had “faithfully fulfilled its duties as the host.”
China is viewed as a neutral party, with strong ties to both Iran and Saudi Arabia, as well as Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
Saturday’s comments came after China hosted Iran’s hard-line President Ebrahim Raisi last month to consolidate ties between the two countries.
China is also a top purchaser of Saudi oil. Chinese leader Xi Jinping visited Riyadh in December for meetings with oil-rich Gulf Arab nations crucial to China’s energy supplies.
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Xi, whose administration in recent days has warned of “conflict and confrontation” with the U.S., was credited in a trilateral statement with facilitating the Iran-Saudi talks through a “noble initiative” and having personally agreed to sponsor the negotiations that lasted from Monday through Friday.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.