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China scores another diplomatic victory as Iran-Saudi Arabia reconciliation advances

Taiwanese president meets with McCarthy
Taiwanese president meets with Kevin McCarthy in California 02:16

Beijing — Saudi Arabia and Iran agreed Thursday to reopen diplomatic missions in their respective capitals and in additional cities, Iran's semiofficial news agency said. ISNA reported the foreign ministers had reached the agreement in Beijing. The deal also calls for the countries to study the prospects of resuming flights between the two nations and facilitating the visa process for the citizens of both countries. 

Saudi Arabia and Iran are long-time regional rivals but have moved toward reconciliation as part of a deal brokered by China last month. The agreement represents a new step toward reconciliation after seven years of tension and lowers the chance of armed conflict between the Mideast rivals — both directly and in proxy conflicts around the region.

The deal brokered by Beijing also represents a major diplomatic victory for the Chinese as Gulf Arab states perceive the United States slowly withdrawing from the wider Middle East. China scored the victory amid increasingly fraught relations with the U.S. over the status of Taiwan.

China Saudi Arabia-Iran
In this picture released by the Iranian Foreign Ministry, Iran's Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian, left, shakes hands with his Saudi Arabian counterpart Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud, right, and Chineses counterpart Qin Gang in Beijing, April 6, 2023. Iranian Foreign Ministry via AP

The democratically governed island's leader met Wednesday in California with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and other U.S. lawmakers. China claims Taiwan as its own territory, to be "reunited" with the mainland by force if necessary, and had vowed "resolute countermeasures" over the meeting in California. As Iran announced the new diplomatic steps in Beijing on Thursday, China's military sailed warships into the waters around Taiwan.

The advancing diplomacy in Beijing came amid ongoing efforts by diplomats to end a yearslong war in Yemen, a conflict in which both Iran and Saudi Arabia are deeply entrenched.

On Thursday morning, Saudi Arabia's state-run Al-Ekhbariya TV showed Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud and his Iranian counterpart, Hossein Amirabdollahian shaking hands and sitting side by side. Iran's state TV said the two ministers met to discuss the details of reopening embassies.

It was the first formal meeting of senior diplomats from the two nations since 2016, when the kingdom broke ties with Iran after protesters invaded Saudi diplomatic posts there. Saudi Arabia had executed a prominent Shiite cleric, along with 46 others, days earlier, triggering the demonstrations.

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