By Voice of America,
A deal between Iran and Saudi Arabia to resume diplomatic ties has wide-reaching effects across the Middle East and beyond, and it reduces the chance of armed conflict between regional rivals.
Here’s a look at some of the countries that could be affected by the deal, struck this week in China:
Yemen: Both Saudi Arabia and Iran are deeply embroiled in Yemen’s yearslong civil war. Saudi Arabia entered the conflict in 2015, backing the country’s exiled government, while Iran has backed the Houthi rebels who in 2014 seized the capital, Sanaa. Diplomats have been seeking a way to end the conflict, which has spawned one of the world’s worst humanitarian disasters and turned into a proxy war between Riyadh and Tehran. The Saudi-Iran deal may provide a boost to efforts to end the conflict.
Lebanon: Iran long has backed the powerful Lebanese Shiite militia Hezbollah, while Saudi Arabia has backed the country’s Sunni politicians. Easing tensions between Riyadh and Tehran could see the two work toward a political reconciliation in Lebanon, which is facing an unprecedented financial meltdown.
Syria: Iran has backed Syria’s President Bashar Assad in his country’s long war, while Saudi Arabia has backed the rebels seeking to topple him. But in recent months, particularly after the earthquake that devastated both Syria and Turkey, Arab nations have moved closer to Assad. The diplomatic deal on Friday could make it more palatable for Riyadh to interact with Assad — and further strengthen the autocrat’s hand.
Israel: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has wanted to normalize relations with Saudi Arabia, but the deal with Iran, his longtime nemesis, will complicate that. It also could make Israel feel more alone if it decides to carry out a military strike against Iran’s nuclear program as it creeps closer to weapons-grade levels. Already, the United Arab Emirates, which has normalized relations with Israel and long has been suspicious of Tehran, already has sought to ease tensions with Iran.
Iran: Iran has faced withering international sanctions amid the collapse of its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers. The Saudi-Iran deal could provide Tehran new avenues to skirt sanctions. Already, Iran has deepened its ties to Russia and armed Moscow with bomb-carrying drones in its war on Ukraine.
Saudi Arabia: Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman wants to spend tens of billions of dollars on megaprojects to pivot the kingdom off crude oil amid threats imposed by climate change. Worrying about cross-border attacks only puts these projects in more doubt.
United States: The Biden administration insists that it has always been in favor of any arrangement that can help reduce tensions in the Mideast, including a restoration of Iran-Saudi ties. However, U.S. officials say they are skeptical Iran will follow through on its commitments but say they will be watching closely. China’s role in mediating the rapprochement may be a concern as it relates to the battle between Washington and Beijing for influence in the region and beyond, but the officials said it was far from clear if the Chinese efforts would be successful.
Read Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson’s Remarks on Saudi Arabia-Iran Talks in Beijing
Q: Saudi Arabia and Iran held talks in Beijing this week, which has received extensive attention from various quarters. Can you share with us the context, the outcomes and more details of the talks? What future role will China play in promoting peace and stability in the Middle East?
A: In response to the initiative of President Xi Jinping of China’s support for developing good neighborly relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran, the delegation of Saudi Arabia headed by Dr. Musaad bin Mohammed Al-Aiban, Minister of State, Member of the Council of Ministers, and National Security Advisor, and the delegation of Iran headed by Admiral Ali Shamkhani, Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council of the Islamic Republic of Iran, held talks in Beijing from March 6 to 10. Member of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee and Director of the Office of the Central Commission for Foreign Affairs Wang Yi held talks with the two delegations respectively and chaired the opening and closing ceremonies of the talks.
China, Saudi Arabia and Iran reached an agreement and issued a Joint Trilateral Statement. Saudi Arabia and Iran agreed to adhere to the purposes and principles of the UN Charter, resolve the disagreements between them through dialogue and diplomacy, respect the sovereignty of states, and not interfere in internal affairs of states. They agreed to resume diplomatic relations, and carry out cooperation in various fields. The three countries expressed their keenness to exert all efforts towards enhancing regional and international peace and security. Saudi Arabia and Iran also expressed their appreciation and gratitude to China for hosting and sponsoring the talks, and the efforts it placed towards its success. China looks forward to seeing closer communication and dialogue between Saudi Arabia and Iran and stands ready to continue playing a positive and constructive role in facilitating such efforts.
With the concerted efforts of all parties concerned, the talks between Saudi Arabia and Iran in Beijing produced major outcomes. Saudi Arabia and Iran have identified the roadmap and timeline for improving their relations, which provides a solid foundation for their cooperation going forward and turns a new page in their bilateral relations. Their dialogue and the agreement set a good example of how countries in the region can resolve disputes and differences and achieve good neighborliness and friendship through dialogue and consultation. This will help regional countries to get rid of external interference and take the future into their own hands. Saudi Arabia and Iran reaffirmed their adherence to the purposes and principles of the UN Charter and the basic norms in international relations including non-interference in internal affairs of states. This is in line with the trend of the times. China applauds this and congratulates both sides.
I want to stress that China pursues no selfish interest whatsoever in the Middle East. We respect the stature of Middle East countries as the masters of this region and oppose geopolitical competition in the Middle East. China has no intention to and will not seek to fill so-called vacuum or put up exclusive blocs. China always believes that the future of the Middle East should always be in the hands of the countries in the region. China always supports the people in the Middle East in independently exploring their development paths and supports Middle East countries in resolving differences through dialogue and consultation to jointly promote lasting peace and stability in the region. China will be a promoter of security and stability, partner for development and prosperity and supporter of the Middle East’s development through solidarity. China will continue to contribute its insights and proposals to realizing peace and tranquility in the Middle East and play its role as a responsible major country in this process.