China Brokers Historic Agreement between Saudi Arabia and Iran

A stunning blow to the geopolitical “rules-based order” was delivered on March 10 with the announcement, from Beijing, of the resumption of diplomatic relations between Riyadh and Tehran. Representatives of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Islamic Republic of Iran announced that they would reestablish diplomatic ties no later than two months from now. This was done, as the Saudi News Agency reported, “in response to the noble initiative of His Excellency President Xi Jinping”. It was the culmination of talks held between March 6-10 in Beijing, as well as intense discussions from 2021 on, including during Xi’s summits to the region in Dec. 2022 (cf. SAS 50/22).

The trilateral statement was issued after Wang Yi, Director of the Foreign Affairs Commission of the Communist Party’s Central Committee, met with both delegations. According to Global Times, he congratulated them for taking this “historic step,” which not only represents a victory for “dialogue and peace,” but also a successful application of President Xi’s Global Security Initiative. No matter how difficult a problem may be, Wang stressed, maintaining a spirit of mutual respect to seek dialogue can help each side reach a settlement. The Iranian and Saudi delegations had nothing but praise for China’s “major country diplomacy”.

In fact, this announcement came just two weeks after Beijing had issued its Global Security Initiative Concept Paper and its Proposal for negotiated settlement in Ukraine (cf. SAS 8-10/23), confirming China’s role in shaping international relations. Most striking is that the United States and the United Kingdom, which have played the Sunni vs. Shiite card in the region for decades, if not centuries, were left out of the negotiations. Indeed, that was likely the key to its success. As the chief foreign correspondent of the New York Times, Peter Baker, admits, this development has left heads spinning, as it “upended” the old alliance system and left the U.S. “on the sidelines”.

The potential ramifications of this agreement can hardly be overstated. On a regional level, it upsets the power relations in the Middle East, more properly called West Asia, setting a precedent for the conflict in Yemen, as well as in Lebanon and Syria. The Saudis have long financed extremist movements, including abroad, and fomented conflicts in the area.

Worldwide, the GSI, together with the Ten Principles proposed by the Schiller Institute, can serve as a solid basis for resolving conflicts, such as in Ukraine. The big question is: how will the West, especially the United States, react? In principle, nothing is preventing them from joining the new dynamic, which is supported by the vast majority of the world population.

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