Middle East Foreign Ministers Head To China For Meetings

FILE - Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal Bin Farhan Al-Saud makes statements during his visit in Athens, Greece on Jan. 4, 2022. Foreign ministers from Saudi Arabia and other Middle Eastern states are visiting Beijing for meetings with officials from the world's second largest economy, a leading consumer of oil and source of foreign investment. (AP Photo/Michael Varaklas, File)

Foreign ministers from Saudi Arabia and other Middle Eastern states are visiting China this week for meetings with officials from the world’s second-largest economy, a leading consumer of oil, and a source of foreign investment.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry on Monday gave no details of the agendas for the visits, but said they were expected to “deepen relations between the two sides.”

The meetings running through Friday will include the foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, and Bahrain, along with the secretary-general of the Gulf Cooperation Council.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian will also be in China at the end of this week, ministry spokesperson Saeed Khatibzadeh said in Tehran. It wasn’t immediately clear if he would join the meetings with the others. Khatibzadeh said the foreign minister left for Oman today.

The ministry spokesperson said that his country is not satisfied with the speed of negotiations to revive Tehran’s tattered 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, which has dragged on for weeks in Vienna. China is a party to the talks and a critic of related U.S. sanctions on Iran.

“Time is important to us, but it is not possible the other side moves like a turtle and we move at the speed of light,” Khatibzadeh said.

Iran’s diplomats under recently elected hardline President Ebrahim Raisi have presented maximalist demands, exasperating European nations. Western delegates have warned that time is running out to revive the deal.

China and the U.S. are increasingly jockeying for influence in the Middle East, where Chinese companies have found markets for goods and services ranging from highways to military drones. China’s economy is heavily reliant on Middle Eastern oil and gas and Beijing has also maintained close ties with Iran amid its nuclear ambitions and disputes with other Gulf nations.

China and the Gulf nations have “provided each other with firm support on issues concerning their core interests, and have promoted practical cooperation in various fields with fruitful results,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said at a daily briefing Monday.

Participants in the meetings were given as Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud, Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Ahmed Nasser Al-Mohammed Al-Sabah, Omani Foreign Minister Badr Albusaidi, Bahraini Foreign Minister Abdullatif bin Rashid Alzayani and Gulf Cooperation Council Secretary General Nayef Falah Al-Hajraf.

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