nCa News and Commentary
In talks facilitated by China, the Gulf neighbours Saudi Arabia and Iran have decided to restore bilateral diplomatic relations. The agreement was signed in Beijing on Friday, 10 March 2023.
The signatories to the document of far reaching significance are Ali Shamkhani, secretary of the Supreme National Security Council of Iran, and Saudi national security adviser Musaad bin Mohammed al-Aiban.
Wang Yi, China’s most senior diplomat, was present during the signing of the deal that envisages the restoration of diplomatic relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran and reopening of the embassies in each other’s capitals within two months.
The foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia and Iran will meet in the run-up to the reopening of the embassies.
The relations were severed in 2016 when Saudi Arabia executed a prominent Shia Muslim scholar.
Earlier, the talks between Saudi Arabia and Iran were held over the past couple of years in Iraq and Oman but no deal could be reached. Nevertheless, the meetings contributed to building the grounds for the deal.
The UAE, another important player in the Gulf region, reopened its embassy in Iran last year.
President Xi Jinping of China visited Saudi Arabia in December 2022. During his visit a summit of China and the Gulf countries also took place in Riyadh.
The Iranian president visited China recently. According to the sources the agenda of the visit included the hosting of Saudi-Iranian talks by China.
The deal signed on Friday was the outcome of four days of intense negotiations between Saudi Arabia and Iran in Beijing.
According to the media reports, the agreement includes their affirmation of the respect for the sovereignty of states and the non-interference in internal affairs. The sides also agreed to re-activate a 2001 security cooperation accord, as well as another earlier pact on trade, economy and investment.
China’s top diplomat, Wang Yi, described the deal as a victory for dialogue and peace, adding that Beijing would continue to play a constructive role in addressing tough global issues, Reuters reports.
Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency quoted Shamkhani as calling the talks “clear, transparent, comprehensive and constructive.”
“Removing misunderstandings and the future-oriented views in relations between Tehran and Riyadh will definitely lead to improving regional stability and security, as well as increasing cooperation among Persian Gulf nations and the world of Islam for managing current challenges,” Shamkhani said.
Al-Aiban thanked Iraq and Oman for mediating between Iran and the kingdom, according to his remarks carried by the state-run Saudi Press Agency.
“While we value what we have reached, we hope that we will continue with the constructive dialogue,” the Saudi official said.
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First and foremost, the deal could not have been reached if Saudi Arabia and Iran were not actively seeking the solution of the impasse. Credit goes to both of them.
Equally important, China deserves praise for the facilitation of the talks and energetic pursuit of an amicable outcome.
In no small part, it was the result of the ‘quiet diplomacy’ of China – no fanfare, no boasting, no noise. As we have seen in many political and economic breakthroughs in the past, the diplomatic machinery of China runs silently until the desired outcome is reached. It is prudent because premature publicity generally attracts detractors and meddlers.
Some analysts are trying to portray it as the loss of the influence for the USA and the rise of China as a global player. This is a counterproductive line of argument. — The real winner here is peace. China has surely gained in prestige but it is not at the cost of the USA or anyone else.
With the diplomatic relations between Saudi Arabia back on the track, there is strong hope that the conflict in Yemen could end in the near future. The people of Yemen are suffering for the last eight years. Even if the peace is found right away, it will take decades and massive funds to return Yemen to the pre-conflict level.
In fact, peace will be just the beginning of confronting the gigantic challenges that were already present there. One of them is the acute shortage of water. Sanaa, the capital of Yemen is going to run out of water within ten years.
The peace in Syria is also a real possibility now. This is particularly urgent because of the death and destruction caused by the recent earthquakes in Syria (and Turkey).
Another potential beneficiary of the deal is Iraq where the sides backed by Iran and Saudi Arabia are frequently at loggerheads.
As we have noted in our ongoing series ‘The ground realities are transforming TAPI into CAPS,’ the situation in Ukraine and the way it is being handled has smashed globalization. What we are left with is regionalization. The fact that China successfully managed to not only bring Saudi Arabia and Iran to the negotiation table but facilitated the deal for the resumption of diplomatic ties between them is a good example of how this regionalization will work in the foreseeable future.
The deal signed in Beijing will indirectly serve as catalyst for peace in Ukraine. We are saying this because of the principles on which fire extinguishers works:
-Smouldering: It involves removal of oxygen or decreasing presence of oxygen.
– Cooling: It involves the process of reducing heat or removal of heat.
-Starvation: It involves the removal of fuel from the scene of fire.
Two of these three principles will enter the equation – smouldering, and starvation. With the diplomatic ties back to normal between Saudi Arabia and Iran there will be no room for misunderstanding between these two major regional players. This would deny the oxygen to any external players who could be desirous of expanding the geography of the Ukraine conflict. They will, hopefully, also help in removing some of the fuel from the fire. There is a bond of trust between China, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Iran.
On another note, both Saudi Arabia and Iran are major suppliers of energy resources to China. The restoration of ties between them will contribute to energy security in the mega-region and that will possibly serve as bulwark against the rising wave of recession. The recession is perhaps inevitable but its negative impact and its duration would, with any luck, be manageable in this region.
For Central Asia it is wonderful news because China, Saudi Arabia and Iran are traditional and reliable partners of the region.
We fervently hope nothing happens to disrupt the deal. /// nCa, 12 March 2023 [Images credit Chinese and Saudi media]