RIYADH: Saudi Arabia plans to host a Chinese-Arab summit on Dec 9 attended by Chinese President Xi Jinping during his visit to the kingdom, three Arab diplomats in the region familiar with the plans said on Wednesday.

Xi is scheduled to arrive in Riyadh on Dec 7, two of the diplomats and a fourth source with direct knowledge of the visit said, on a trip that comes at a sensitive time for Saudi-US relations that have been strained by a dispute over energy supplies and concerns over growing Chinese influence in the Middle East. Invitations have gone out to leaders in the Middle East and North Africa for the Chinese-Arab gathering, the diplomats said.

The Saudi government communications office did not immediately respond to a request for comment about Xi’s visit or summit timing. The Chinese foreign ministry did not immediately respond to a query on Xi’s trip.

The Chinese delegation is expected to sign dozens of agreements and memoranda of understanding with Gulf nations and other Arab states covering energy, security and investments, the diplomats said without elaborating.

Saudi minister of state for foreign affairs Adel Al-Jubeir earlier this month said that strengthening trade ties and regional security would be priorities in the visit, which is also expected to include a China-Gulf summit alongside the wider Arab gathering. “The level of representation depends on each country with many Arab leaders expected to attend, others would send at least their foreign ministers,” one of the Arab diplomats said.

Xi’s trip comes against the backdrop of Washington’s strained ties with both Beijing and Riyadh over differences on human rights and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and as Western countries face rising economic competition from China, which they say uses its economic might as diplomatic leverage.

Gulf Arab states have in the past few years been strengthening links with China and Russia at a time of growing regional doubts about the commitment of key security partner the United States to the region.

Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have resisted US pressure to “choose sides” when it comes to their ties with China, a major trade partner, and Russia, a fellow member of the OPEC+ oil producer alliance.

Published in Dawn, December 1st, 2022

Opinion

Editorial

IMF’s projections
Updated 18 Apr, 2024

IMF’s projections

The problems are well-known and the country is aware of what is needed to stabilise the economy; the challenge is follow-through and implementation.
Hepatitis crisis
18 Apr, 2024

Hepatitis crisis

THE sheer scale of the crisis is staggering. A new WHO report flags Pakistan as the country with the highest number...
Never-ending suffering
18 Apr, 2024

Never-ending suffering

OVER the weekend, the world witnessed an intense spectacle when Iran launched its drone-and-missile barrage against...
Saudi FM’s visit
Updated 17 Apr, 2024

Saudi FM’s visit

The government of Shehbaz Sharif will have to manage a delicate balancing act with Pakistan’s traditional Saudi allies and its Iranian neighbours.
Dharna inquiry
17 Apr, 2024

Dharna inquiry

THE Supreme Court-sanctioned inquiry into the infamous Faizabad dharna of 2017 has turned out to be a damp squib. A...
Future energy
17 Apr, 2024

Future energy

PRIME MINISTER Shehbaz Sharif’s recent directive to the energy sector to curtail Pakistan’s staggering $27bn oil...