Saudi-Iran talks in Beijing mark successful practices of the Global Security Initiative
Published: Mar 11, 2023 03:42 AM
Photo: mfa.gov.cn

Photo: mfa.gov.cn

Under the mediation of China, Saudi Arabia and Iran, "long-term rivals in the Middle East," held intensive talks in Beijing for five days, and finally reached an agreement, which includes resuming diplomatic relations and reopening embassies and representatives institutions, and exchanging ambassadors within a maximum of two months. They also explored opportunities to strengthen bilateral relations. Furthermore, the two sides will restart the security agreement signed in 2001.

This demonstrates the determination of both sides to fully restore diplomatic and security relations, and also shows that China's mediation efforts have facilitated a real and comprehensive settlement agreement, rather than a partial or temporary one. It has not only brought an end to years of confrontation between the two countries, but also initiated a new phase of cooperation.

The fruitful outcome of the Saudi-Iran dialogue in Beijing is not only a great joy for the two countries, but also great news for the stability of the Middle East and even world peace. Both Saudi Arabia and Iran have expressed their gratitude to Beijing for its diplomatic efforts, and the international community has evaluated this achievement positively. This also shows that China's peaceful diplomacy of upholding justice, facilitating peace and promoting talks has been widely recognized by the Middle East and the international community.

The Middle East is the world's most complex region in terms of security. However, the handshake between Saudi Arabia and Iran demonstrates that no matter how complicated the problems are and how acute the challenges are, conducting equal dialogue in the spirit of mutual respect can lead to a solution accepted by all.

In early 2016, Saudi Arabia and Iran broke off diplomatic relations over an incident involving a Shia cleric of Saudi Arabia. It has been seven years since then, and during this period, the tensions between the two countries have intensified, with bilateral ties nearly slipping into war. The severance of diplomatic relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran was not accidental, but rather the culmination of decades of tense relations between the two countries.

Under the influence of sectarianism, ethnicity, geopolitics and major power interference, the conflict between Saudi Arabia and Iran became one of the root factors affecting peace and security in the Middle East. Their fierce competition surrounding the situations in Yemen, Syria, Lebanon and other countries has led to political sectarianization and confrontation in the Middle East, and a series of geopolitical conflicts in the Middle East have been protracted. Saudi Arabia and Iran and other relevant countries in the Middle East paid a high and heavy price for this. It can be said that as long as Saudi Arabia and Iran remain unreconciled, there will be no peace in the Middle East.

The dialogue between Saudi Arabia and Iran in Beijing has achieved a major breakthrough, from which we can draw the following inspirations:

First, head-of-state diplomacy leads the way. In December 2022, President Xi Jinping paid a state visit to Saudi Arabia and attended the China-Saudi Summit, China-GCC Summit and China-Arab Summit. Last month, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi paid a state visit to China at the invitation of President Xi. In fact, China has been offering practical solutions and Chinese wisdom to address security challenges in the Middle East. Since President Xi first proposed a new security concept of common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security in 2014, China has continued to promote security in the Middle East. Saudi Arabia and Iran sent delegations to Beijing for dialogue, which is the recognition and trust of China's sincere attitude.

Second, it is a successful practice of the Global Security Initiative. Under China's mediation, Saudi Arabia and Iran, the long-term rivals, were able to lay down their swords and forge a path towards peace, fully demonstrating the ambitious goals of the Global Security Initiative and its potential to serve as a compass and roadmap for conflict resolution. In recent years, China has worked between Saudi Arabia and many conflicting parties in the Middle East, making efforts towards peace in the region without seeking self-interest. It has repeatedly proposed a Gulf collective security architecture and the resolution of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Saudi Arabia and Iran finally achieved positive results, which shows that the concept of peace and security put forward by China is highly practical and operable.

Again, the reconciliation between Saudi Arabia and Iran is in line with the trend of the times. In the past few years, Saudi Arabia and Iran have been caught in the vortex of conflict and paid a huge price. Under internal and external pressure, both countries have realized that development is the top priority, and only development can promote peace. In recent years, there has been a wave of détente among countries in the Middle East, and relations between countries in the region have been significantly eased. The success of the Saudi-Iran dialogue in Beijing is in line with the trend of the times for great reconciliation and détente in the Middle East. Just as Wang Yi, member of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee and director of the Office of the Foreign Affairs Commission of the CPC Central Committee, said, the talks between Saudi Arabia and Iran are a victory for peace.

Of course, the conflict between Saudi Arabia and Iran has been long-standing and deeply rooted, and there are still many specific differences between the two sides, which cannot be resolved by a single agreement. However, the talks in Beijing mark a good start for the two sides to continue to improve relations and resolve conflicts. It is believed that countries in the Middle East will further promote the spirit of independence, strengthen solidarity and cooperation, and work together to build a more peaceful, stable and prosperous Middle East. China will also continue to play a constructive role in properly handling hotspot issues in the world in accordance with the wishes of all countries and demonstrate its responsibility as a major power.

The author is a professor with the Middle East Studies Institute of Shanghai International Studies University. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn