Saudi Arabia’s cabinet approved a decision to join a China-led security bloc, strengthening Riyadh’s eastern ties in a further step away from US interests, international media reported
In a session presided by King Salman bin Abdulaziz, the Saudi cabinet on Tuesday approved a memorandum awarding Riyadh the status of dialogue partner in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, state-owned Saudi Press Agency reported.
The Shanghai Cooperation Organization was established in 2001 as a political, economic and security organisation that lists China, Russia, India, Pakistan and four other central Asian nations as full members.
The organization further tallies four observer states — including Iran — and nine dialogue partners, counting in Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey. It is headquartered in Beijing and served by China’s Zhang Ming as secretary-general.
The move would grant Riyadh “the status of a dialogue partner in the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, a report by AFP said.
Riyadh’s move to partner with the bloc comes less than three weeks after the unveiling of a landmark China-brokered reconciliation deal with Iran to restore full diplomatic relations that were severed seven years ago.
Iran and Saudi Arabia have engaged in a series of proxy conflicts in the region, such as the protracted fighting in Yemen.
Earlier in the month, Iran and Saudi Arabia agreed to reestablish diplomatic relations and reopen embassies after seven years of tensions.
The major diplomatic breakthrough was negotiated by China, that lowers the chance of armed conflict between the Mideast rivals, both directly and in proxy conflicts around the region.
The deal, struck in Beijing amid China’s ceremonial National People’s Congress, represented a major diplomatic victory for the Chinese government as Persian Gulf states perceive the United States to be slowly withdrawing from the wider Middle East.
It also comes as diplomats have been trying to end a years-long war in Yemen, a conflict in which both Iran and Saudi Arabia are deeply entrenched.
The two countries released a joint communique with China, which apparently brokered the agreement as President Xi Jinping was awarded a third five-year term as leader earlier Friday.
Iranian state media posted images and video that it described as being taken in China of the meeting. It showed Ali Shamkhani, the secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, with Saudi national security advisor Musaad bin Mohammed al-Aiban and Wang Yi, China’s most senior diplomat.
“After implementing of the decision, the foreign ministers of both nations will meet to prepare for the exchange of ambassadors,” Iranian state television said. It added that the talks had been held over four days.