In Riyadh, Xi Jinping promises stronger ties with Arab Gulf countries

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&In Riyadh, Xi Jinping promises stronger ties with Arab Gulf countries

Chinese President Xi Jinping and Saudi Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman shake hands.

Chinese President Xi Jinping pleaded at summits in Saudi Arabia on Friday for close ties , security and energy, with the Arab monarchies of the Gulf, a region rich in hydrocarbons, long perceived as the backyard of the United States.

On the third and final day of his visit, Xi Jinping took part in a summit with the six Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries and an expanded one with Arab leaders in Riyadh.

The meetings followed bilateral talks on Thursday with Saudi leaders, at the end of which Riyadh and Beijing stressed the importance of stability in oil markets, a sticking point with the United States which urged the Saudis to increase their production.

China will continue to firmly support the GCC countries with a view to maintaining their security, Xi Jinping said after the summit with the GCC, which includes Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, the United Arab Emirates. Kuwait and Oman.

It will continue to import large quantities of crude oil from GCC countries, he said, promising to expand this cooperation to other areas, such as imports of liquefied natural gas (LNG).

Xi Jinping further said that China would use a Shanghai-based platform to settle oil and gas trade in RMB (yuan), a move that, if Gulf nations agree, could weaken dominance. of the US dollar.

When asked about this at a press conference in Riyadh, the head of Saudi diplomacy Faisal ben Farhan declared that he did not #x27;had nothing to add.

Oil from Saudi Arabia alone accounted for 17% of Chinese imports in 2021, and last month Qatar announced a 27-year natural gas deal with China.

China is the world's largest importer of crude oil and Saudi Arabia, leader of the GCC, is the world's largest exporter.

The visit of the Chinese president, the first in Saudi Arabia since 2016, intervened in a context of rivalry with the United States, strategic military partner of the Arab countries of the Gulf.

But historic relations between the United States and Saudi Arabia have been strained, especially over issues of human rights abuses and oil.

The refusal to Riyadh to increase its production to limit the surge in prices, in the context of the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February, provoked the ire of Washington.

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The United States reacted to Xi Jinping's visit, warning of the influence China wants to gain around the world.

Saudi officials have repeatedly both stressed their commitment to close ties with the United States, but said they would not hesitate to explore relations elsewhere.

We seek cooperation with all parties. Competition is a good thing, Prince Faisal said, adding that his country would continue to have strong relations with the United States in all areas.

We will continue to work with all our partners […]. We do not believe in polarization, he added.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, the kingdom's de facto ruler, addressed the two summits pledging continued China-Arab cooperation in the service of our common goals and the aspirations of our peoples.

The leaders of Egypt, Tunisia, Jordan as well as the Palestinian president notably participated in the Sino-Arab summit.

On Thursday, Xi Jinping signed with the Saudi leaders a forty agreements in different areas, ranging from hydrogen to housing. Details were not released.

The Gulf countries, key partners of Washington, have increased their ties with China in recent years with the aim of diversify their strategic relations and reduce the dependence of their economies on hydrocarbons.

The Asian giant is seeking to relaunch and expand its sphere of influence, in particular through its new silk roads initiative, a vast international investment project.

But the Gulf countries are not so united and seem more invested in the advancement of bilateral ties with Beijing, points out Robert Mogielnicki, of the Arab Gulf States Institute think tank, based in Washington.

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