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The Broader Context Behind China’s Mediation Between Iran and Saudi Arabia

The Broader Context Behind China’s Mediation Between Iran and Saudi Arabia

When it was clear that an agreement was possible to finalize the détente, China took the mantle of responsibility and the role of a direct mediator.

The agreement between Iran and Saudi Arabia to restore diplomatic and economic ties is the latest development in the geopolitical shifts in the Gulf region that have been taking shape since January 2021.

The Saudis have been engaged in talks with Iran from around the same time as that month’s Al Ula Summit, which ended the blockade of Qatar and mended the rift within the Gulf Cooperation Council. In the two years since, the United Arab Emirates has restored its diplomatic relations with Iran and even replaced China as Iran’s top import partner; Kuwait, too, has returned its ambassador to Tehran.

The negotiations between Iran and Saudi Arabia since 2021 largely took place in Iraq and Oman. Other regional countries, including Kuwait and Pakistan, had attempted to arrange for talks between Tehran and Riyadh on numerous occasions in the past seven years. The heightened military tensions in the region during Donald Trump’s presidency in the United States ignited a sense of responsibility by other global powers and players to help manage and resolve regional conflicts.

China has been vocally calling for reconfiguring the regional security architecture in the Persian Gulf since 2020. In a U.N. Security Council meeting arranged by Russia in October of that year, China presented its proposal for security and stability in the Gulf region, arguing that with a multilateral effort, the region can become “an Oasis of Security.”

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