Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud has paid a visit to China amid Beijing’s efforts to play a more active economic and diplomatic role in the Middle East.
On Thursday, the king oversaw the conclusion of deals worth potentially $65 billion with the Chinese side at the start of his three-day visit.
According to Deputy Chinese Foreign Minister Zhang Ming, the agreements cover a variety of issues, ranging from energy to space technology, but he did not provide further details.
Speaking to reporters, Chinese President Xi Jinping said King Salman’s visit highlights the importance of Beijing-Riyadh ties, adding “this visit will push forward and continue to improve the quality of our relations and bear new fruit.”
The octogenarian monarch arrived in Beijing on Wednesday at the head of an entourage of 1,000 people on the fourth leg of his one-month tour of Asia, after he visited Japan, Malaysia and Indonesia.
The king’s Asian tour is aimed at promoting investment opportunities in the kingdom, including the sale of a stake in its giant state firm Saudi Aramco.
Saudi Arabia has sought to increase oil exports to China by working mostly with the Asian country’s top three state oil firms after it lost market share to Russia in 2016.
Salman and Xi also discussed the Yemen and Syria crises, stressing that the issues must be resolved through political channels, Zhang said.
Over the past year, China has tried to shift away from its traditional policy of keeping a low profile in the Middle East and assume a more active role with regard to the regional issues.
Ahead of the Saudi king’s trip, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi expressed hope on March 8 for the resolution of the issues facing Iran-Saudi ties, saying Beijing was ready to help eliminate the differences.
On Friday, the Iranian Embassy in Beijing welcomed the Chinese offer to play a mediatory role and help settle the differences between Iran and Saudi Arabia, which unilaterally severed ties with the Islamic Republic last year.
Saudi Arabia severed diplomatic relations with Iran on January 3 following demonstrations held in front of Riyadh’s diplomatic premises in Iran by angry protesters censuring the Al Saud family for the execution of prominent cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr.