RIYADH, December 9
Chinese President Xi Jinping met Gulf Arab leaders in Riyadh on Friday in the first of the two “milestone” Arab summits showcasing Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as an aspiring leader of West Asia and key partner for global powers.
Xi, who has been welcomed in Saudi Arabia with pomp and ceremony, signed a strategic partnership pact with the world’s top oil exporter a day before Friday’s meeting with the energy-rich, six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council.
The two nations reaffirmed the significance of a stable oil global market and the Saudi role in that, a joint statement said on Friday.
He was due to hold wider talks later with leaders of Arab League states spanning the Gulf, Levant and Africa.
The United States is warily watching the growing influence of economic rival Beijing in the region, where China has vested interest as the world’s biggest energy consumer and Chinese firms are expanding into technology and other infrastructure.
Xi’s visit also comes at a time when Riyadh’s long-standing alliance with Washington has been strained over human rights issues, energy policy and Russia, as well as Gulf doubts about the commitment of main security guarantor America to the region.
At the start of the China-GCC summit, Prince Mohammed heralded a “historic new phase of relations with China”. — Reuters
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