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Riyadh’s big breakthroughs in the US, China

This is an important week for Saudi diplomacy in terms of strengthening the relationship with China, the largest importer of oil in the world, and opening a new page with US President Donald Trump. 

The latter involves fixing what was marred by former President Barack Obama, who forged ties with Iran against the interests and security of the Gulf and Saudi Arabia.

King Salman met with the leadership of China. At the same time Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the Saudi deputy crown prince, met with the US president.

A senior Saudi adviser described the White House meeting as “a historic turning point” in relations. “Today’s meeting has put things on the right track, and marked a significant shift in relations, across all political, military, security and economic fields,” the adviser said, according to Bloomberg.

That is a clear signal of a restoration in the special relationship between the US and Saudi. That relationship was built on the understandings of the meeting held between the late Saudi King Abdulaziz and former US President Franklin Roosevelt aboard the USS Quincy after the end of World War II.

The meeting between Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Trump, who took the chair less than two months ago, attracted huge interest in the White House.

The US president brought the date of the meeting forward by two days, and included many White House officials in the meeting, along with the vice president. Unofficial statements suggest Washington has changed its policy toward Iran, and that it will not stand idle over Tehran’s terrorist activities.

The Trump administration has displayed a much different attitude to Obama, as it allowed the shipment of ammunition to Saudi forces, and provided intelligence to support Saudi Arabia in Yemen.

It has been an important week for Saudi Arabia, given the king’s visit to Beijing and ‘historic turning point’ in the relationship with Washington.

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Saudi Arabia went through a tumultuous period in its relations with Washington under former President Obama. Indeed, the whole region went through a period of unprecedented turbulence. Obama’s openness toward Iran encouraged Tehran to expand militarily in Iraq, Syria and Yemen, creating chaos in the region.

One of the goals of Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s trip was to persuade Trump to correct the situation and challenge the dominance of Iran. It also included the collective countering of terrorism, the common enemy of all.

The new Silk Road 

In China, Iran was not the only topic on the table in the discussions between the Saudi king and China’s president. The two nations enjoy good relations, particularly in the fields of oil, economy, military and security cooperation.

It is worth noting that China’s most promising and exciting project — the new Silk Road plan — has complex political problems, given that it passes through areas of conflict.

One of the likely scenarios is that this route may pass through Saudi territories, as either a main passageway or a parallel path.

Information released by Beijing reveals that it will quietly continue to consolidate its presence in western Asia and eastern Africa. China is the second-strongest economic power after the US and, like all major countries, needs raw materials, energy sources, trade passages and protection for its investments and interests.

Unlike other major countries, China does not rely on a military presence to impose its influence, but rather uses its economic power to impose its position and protect its interests.

The world sees two models in the Middle East: One shows a desire to strengthen relations through development and economic cooperation, and the other uses war and terrorism as a method to impose relations.

• Abdulrahman Al-Rashed is a veteran columnist. He is the former general manager of Al Arabiya News Channel, and former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat, where this article was originally published.