Chinese President Xi to visit Saudi Arabia, sources say, amid frayed US ties



CNN

Chinese President Xi Jinping is due to arrive in Saudi Arabia on Thursday for a two-day state visit amid high tensions between the United States and the two countries, according to a source familiar with the trip, an Arab diplomatic source and two senior Arab officials. officials.

Xi’s trip to Riyadh will include a China-Arab summit and a China-GCC conference, according to the four sources.

At least 14 Arab heads of state are expected to attend the China-Arab summit, according to the Arab diplomatic source who described the trip as a “significant milestone” for Arab-China relations.

The sources spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to speak to the media.

Rumors of a Chinese presidential visit to the United States’ biggest ally in the Middle East have been circulating for months, but have yet to be confirmed by the governments of Saudi Arabia and China.

Beijing has not officially announced that Xi will visit Saudi Arabia. Asked about the potential trip at a regular Foreign Ministry briefing on Tuesday, spokeswoman Mao Ning said she had no information to provide.

Last week, the Saudi government sent registration forms to journalists to cover the summit, without confirming the exact dates. The Saudi government declined to respond to CNN’s request for information on Xi’s visit and planned summits.

Reports of the long-awaited visit come against the backdrop of a number of U.S.-sponsored disagreements with Beijing and Riyadh, which, to Washington’s dismay, have only solidified their ties in recent years.

The United States and Saudi Arabia are still embroiled in a heated dispute over oil production, which culminated in strong rhetoric and trade accusations in October when the Saudi-led oil cartel OPEC+ , cut production by two million barrels a day in a bid to “stabilize” prices. . The decision was made despite an intense US campaign against it.

A staunch US ally for eight long decades, Saudi Arabia has grown bitter over what it perceives to be a waning US security presence in the region, particularly amid growing threats from Iran and its armed Yemeni proxies.

An economic mammoth to the east, China is at odds with the United States over Taiwan, which US President Joe Biden has repeatedly promised to protect if attacked by China. The thorny subject has severely worsened a precarious relationship between Washington and Beijing, which are already vying for influence in the volatile Middle East.

While US allies in the Arab Gulf accuse Washington of failing to honor its security guarantees in the region, China has cemented its ties with the Gulf monarchies, as well as with US enemies Iran and Russia.

China and Saudi Arabia have also taken different positions vis-à-vis the West regarding the war in Ukraine. Both have refrained from approving sanctions against Russia, and Riyadh has repeatedly argued that Moscow is a key energy-producing partner that should be consulted on OPEC+ decisions. Following last month’s massive oil cut, some US officials have accused Saudi Arabia of siding with Russia and aiding President Vladimir Putin in his war against Ukraine.

Saudi officials have denied using oil as a weapon or siding with Russia.

Biden said in October that the United States needed to “rethink” its relationship with Saudi Arabia, which the president apparently tried to mend during a July visit to Riyadh. After vowing to turn the kingdom into an ‘outcast’ and condemning crown prince and factor leader Mohammed bin Salman for the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Biden flew to Riyadh amid global oil shortages and welcomed bin Salman with a punch that made world headlines.

However, the ultimately frosty visit did not result in any increase in oil production and only escalated tensions.

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