The breakdown of diplomatic ties between the two West Asian powers, Saudi Arabia and Iran, has raised concerns in the international community about the volatile region descending into a deepening spiral of violence and instability. Asking both the countries to show restraint and calm, China has asked the two sides to step up dialogue and find a way forward. China has traditionally not been very vocal about the simmering tensions in West Asia, but in recent times it has started showing keen interest in the region, largely due to the threat perception from the Islamic State.
Saudi Arabia and Iran have never shared a cordial relationship as the two countries have vied for supremacy in the region. They cut of diplomatic ties after a Shiite cleric Nimr al-Nimr was executed by Saudi Arabia which resulted in violent protests in Iran where Saudi Arabia’s embassy was attacked. This also led to allies of Saudi Arabia cutting ties with Iran, which seemed to be coming out of international isolation after the historic nuclear deal with P5+1 member countries in July 2015.
Recently, China’s Foreign Ministry said Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Ming met senior Saudi and Iranian officials during his trip to West Asia. In Saudi Arabia, Mr Zhang spoke about the situation between Saudi Arabia and Iran. He “hopes the relevant parties maintain calm and exercise restraint, step up dialogue and consultations and jointly promote an amelioration of the situation”, the ministry said. “In Iran, Mr Zhang repeated the message about calm and restraint, adding China hopes for the maintenance of peace and stability in the region,” said a statement.
The two countries appreciated China’s role in the region, the statement added. China is reliant on the Middle East for oil and the latest developments in the region are likely to have an impact on crude oil prices. It remains unclear how Saudi Arabia and Iran plan to resolve the differences and restore diplomatic ties.
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