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Saudi joins security bloc led by China and Russia

March 30, 2023 at 8:42 am

Iranian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian (R) meets Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud (L) in Beijing, China on April 06, 2023 [Iranian Foreign Ministry/Anadolu Agency]

Saudi Arabia’s decision to join the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation has been met with much debate and controversy over how close the kingdom is getting to China and Russia.

Riyadh became an official member of the bloc, that includes China, India, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan, yesterday. Other dialogue partners include Armenia, Azerbaijan, Cambodia, Egypt, Nepal, Qatar, Sri Lanka and Turkiye. Afghanistan (whose participation has been uncertain since the Taliban took control), Belarus and Mongolia are observer states.

Tehran was the latest to see its status upgraded from an observer state to a full member in September, and Riyadh’s decision came just weeks after China brokered an agreement to resume diplomatic relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia.

READ: Saudi Arabia becomes Shanghai Cooperation Organisation dialogue partner

For Saudi Arabia, the move is the latest step toward rebalancing the major power relations that have traditionally been dominated by its relations with the US, according to Newsweek magazine.

The magazine reported that “Saudi’s diversification strategy attempts to fill in the gaps left by the U.S.’ loss of interest or will in maintaining the status quo in the region.”

Ali Al-Shihabi, a Saudi political expert, told Newsweek magazine: “China being heavily reliant on Persian Gulf oil is the world power with the largest vested interest in a stable status quo in the Gulf,  and hence Saudi has worked to bring China into a more active role in helping stabilize this volatile region.”

US State Department deputy spokesperson Vedant Patel SAID:, “This is not a new development. As you know, Saudi Arabia’s SCO dialogue – SCO status as a dialogue partner has been pending for some time. As you know, each country has its own relationships, and I would of course let the Government of Saudi Arabia speak to that.”

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