On March 10, 2023, with Chinese mediation, Saudi Arabia and Iran signed an agreement in Beijing to foster bilateral ties, thereby ending years of conflict between the two Islamic neighbours – one of whom, Iran, is a nuclear power – and posing a challenge to Western strategic dominance of the Middle East. The delegations from Saudi Arabia and Iran held talks in Beijing from March 6-10 before arriving at the agreement.
In a trilateral statement issued on March 10 by the Chinese foreign ministry in Beijing, it was stated: "The Saudi and Iranian sides expressed their appreciation and gratitude to the Republic of Iraq and the Sultanate of Oman for hosting rounds of dialogue that took place between both sides during the years 2021-2022."
It further stated: "The three countries announce that an agreement has been reached between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Islamic Republic of Iran, that includes an agreement to resume diplomatic relations between them and re-open their embassies and missions within a period not exceeding two months, and the agreement includes their affirmation of the respect for the sovereignty of states and the non-interference in internal affairs of states."
The trilateral agreement was signed in Beijing on March 10, 2023
Following are excerpts from opinion articles on the agreement in Urdu-language newspapers in Pakistan. In an article titled "The Rapprochement Between Saudi Arabia and Iran" and published by the Roznama Express website, columnist Muzammil Suhrawardy described the agreement as China's arrival as the diplomatic superpower of the 21st century.
Roznama Jasarat, a daily belonging to Jamaat-e-Islami Pakistan, published an article titled "Iran-Saudi Arabia Agreement – China's Surprise?" In the article, the writer Arif Bahar argued that the Saudi-Iran agreement will end the perception of the Iranian threat, thereby challenging American strategy in the Middle East. Roznama Jasarat also published another article "Saudi Arabia-Iran Deal, China Successful" by Qazi Jawed, who examined the reactions of different countries, including Pakistan, to the trilateral agreement.
Following are excerpts from Muzammil Suhrawardy's article:
"China's Diplomacy Is Called Silent Diplomacy Where There Is No Noise. That Is Why No Noise Was Made On The Reconciliation Between Saudi Arabia And Iran... And No Attempt To Take Credit After The Reconciliation"
"This is a great development in global diplomacy. In the past only America did such diplomacy. It has no competitor in making countries fight with each other while it also helps in resolving [those fights]. But this time the turning of the world has changed. Instead of America, China has brokered peace between Saudi Arabia and Iran. This has given the impression to the world that China is now recognized as a major player in international diplomacy.
"The question is how America will see this reconciliation. I understand that this must not be seen favorably in Washington. But still, in the opinion of some analysts, the Democrats are currently in power in America [and] the Democrats' policy regarding Iran is also soft. Former Democratic President Obama also made a deal with Iran. However, the subsequent republican President Donald Trump cancelled this deal.
"The policy of the republicans regarding Iran is very strict. If there were a republican government in America, the reaction would have been very severe. So far, this reconciliation made by China is not being seen well in America. Even if the U.S. does not object to the agreement, still its international supremacy has been threatened, which the U.S. cannot accept in any case. It is not ready to surrender its supremacy to anyone.
"The question is also important whether China has become a global player that can challenge America. So far, China has avoided major confrontations on the global stage. Despite the U.S.'s tough attitude, China has avoided a full confrontation with the U.S. Therefore, it is not that China is going to create its own block in the world. China's diplomacy is non-confrontational.
"China's diplomacy is called silent diplomacy where there is no noise. That is why no noise was made on the reconciliation between Saudi Arabia and Iran. There was no stir before the reconciliation and no attempt to take credit after the reconciliation. But China's diplomacy is such that, it advises its friends to work quietly. It has also given such advice to Pakistan."
"It Is Not Possible That Iran Will Continue To Supply Arms To The Houthi Rebels In Yemen And Peace With Saudi Arabia Will Also Be Maintained"
"As far as Saudi Arabia and Iran are concerned, without doubt, both countries have announced that they would restore their diplomatic relations in the next two months. But there are still many remaining stages in the brotherly relations between the two countries. It is true that diplomatic relations between the two countries ended in 2016.
"The two countries were not ready to sit together on the global stage. At least the restoration of diplomatic relations after seven years is no small achievement. Diplomatic relations at least open channels of direct communication. The hugs begin...
"The restoration of diplomatic relations can be considered as the first step toward solving the remaining problems. It would not be wrong to say that Iran will have to make major changes in its policy to maintain this peace. Especially regarding Yemen, Iran will have to make a major change in its policy. It will not be possible for Iran to continue to supply arms to the Houthi rebels in Yemen and peace with Saudi Arabia will be maintained. If one sees, Saudi Arabia and Iran have been fighting directly in Yemen.
"Houthis are attacking Saudi Arabia. So far, many missiles have been fired at Saudi Arabia. Therefore, it remains to be seen whether Iran will change its policy in this regard. I believe that this is a rare opportunity for Iran to overcome its political isolation in Arab countries and improve its relations with all Muslim countries."
"With The Reconciliation Between Saudi Arabia And Iran, The Organization Of Islamic Cooperation Will Also Become A Stronger Organization"
"With the reconciliation between Saudi Arabia and Iran, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) will also become a stronger organization. The alliance among the Muslim countries will change global politics. Up to today, the OIC has not become a strong platform because of the mutual differences between the Muslim countries. Global imperialism has taken advantage of this disunity of Muslim countries.
Muzammil Suhrawardy's article
"The division of Muslim countries has helped establish the supremacy of the West. Therefore, if the major Muslim countries resolve their mutual differences, not only will the map of the world change, but Muslim countries will come to a powerful position in world politics.
"The Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has made major changes in Saudi Arabia's diplomacy over the past few years. Relations with Qatar have been restored. Mohammed bin Salman himself went to Qatar to watch the football world cup match in Qatar. Earlier, Qatar was also expelled from the Arab League. Similarly, Saudi Arabia's relations with China are reaching new heights.
"Saudi Arabia's growing relationship with China is giving a new direction to global politics. China is being given great opportunities in Saudi Arabia, though in the past all these opportunities were given to America."
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"Now Saudi Arabia Has Started To Open Its Doors To Other Countries As Well; Recently, Saudi Arabia Deposited Five Billion Dollars In Turkey"
"It is true that Saudi Arabia's security agreement with the U.S. is still in place. American forces are also present in Saudi Arabia. There are also U.S. bases in Saudi Arabia. That is why Saudi Arabia has always been seen as the American camp; but now saudi arabia has started to open its doors to other countries as well.
"Recently, Saudi Arabia deposited five billion dollars in Turkey. Although a few years ago, all channels of dialogue between the two countries were closed, now not only have the relations between the two been restored but rather cooperation [between the two] has started.
"A few years ago, Turkey was ahead of the Arabs in creating a parallel Islamic bloc. But now Turkey's relations with the Arabs have improved. Good relations between Turkey and Saudi Arabia will also strengthen the OIC.
"The direction of world politics will change. I think that if the big Muslim countries succeed in ending their mutual differences in the same way, the Muslim countries will regain their lost place in world politics. The way Saudi Arabia has embarked on a journey to resolve disputes with all countries is worthy of emulation by other countries."
Following are excerpts from Arif Bahar's article:
"In Reality, This Was An Attempt To Snatch The Iran Card From The Saudi-Israel Agreement And From America Itself Because The Arab Countries In The Middle East Were Forced To Support Their Policies Simply By Making Them Realize The Threat Posed By Iran"
"The foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia and Iran have signed a historic accord in Beijing that is a welcome breath of fresh air for the Muslim world, scarred by years of differences and open proxy wars. In this agreement, both countries have pledged to respect each other's sovereignty and non-interference in their internal affairs, which is of great importance in the coming days.
"With the mediation and facilitation of the United States, an agreement was reached between Saudi Arabia and Israel, in which the two countries pledged mutual respect and cooperation, declaring Iran a symbol of threat. Since then, China had started to play a behind-the-scenes role in ending the long-standing rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran.
"In reality, this was an attempt to snatch the Iran card from the Saudi-Israel agreement and from America itself because the Arab countries in the Middle East were forced to support their policies simply by making them realize the threat posed by Iran.
"In this imagining, Israel was a benevolent character for the Arabs and Iran was a dangerous sword hanging over their heads. By changing the perception of hostility between Saudi Arabia and Iran, China continued to plan to invalidate the Iran card in a very deep and meaningful way, which resulted in the Beijing agreement.
Arif Bahar's article
"The picture of this agreement is circulating all over the world, in which Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi stands confidently between the representatives of Saudi Arabia and Iran. This picture is sending a message to the world that China can also show such charisma in global diplomacy.
"Under the deal, Saudi Arabia and Iran will reopen their embassies and begin implementing old security cooperation agreements. Diplomatic relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran had ended in 2016 when protesters in Saudi Arabia, who were demonstrating against the death sentence given to a prominent Shi'ite cleric, attacked the Saudi Embassy in Tehran. After this, Saudi Arabia recalled its diplomatic staff and cut off diplomatic relations with Iran. This marked the beginning of a new phase of tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran."
"China Has Pulled The Carpet From Under This Defense Doctrine Of The Middle East"; "Iran, On The Other Hand, Announced Respect For The Sovereignty Of An Important Rival Country And Non-Interference In Its Internal Affairs, Thus Rendering The Philosophy Of The Iranian Threat Ineffective"
"The civil war in Yemen had provided both countries with a new arena in which to test their strength. Both countries were also caught up in a struggle to strengthen their respective fronts in the ongoing civil war in Syria. This situation provided the biggest advantage to America and Israel, and they wanted to create a system, with a deep role for Israel, for the protection of Saudi Arabia and other countries by sounding the threat of Iran.
"It seemed as if the same Israel, which was committing mass killings of Arabs and Muslims in Palestine was now appearing as the protector of Arabs and Muslims in Saudi Arabia. In the name of protecting Saudi Arabia, the United States prepared a security umbrella, in which Israel was also a part. For the same purpose, the United States brokered a deal between Saudi Arabia and Israel, without directly acknowledging Israel. This was an example of adding insult to injury.
"China has pulled the carpet out from under this defense doctrine of the Middle East. Apparently, under the pretext of the threat posed by Iran, Arab countries were being intimidated and forced to hide their heads. Iran, on the other hand, announced respect for the sovereignty of an important rival country and non-interference in its internal affairs, thus rendering the philosophy of the Iranian threat ineffective.
"In 2001, Iran and Saudi Arabia signed security cooperation agreements, but there was a power that rendered those agreements ineffective. Now, with the Beijing agreement, there is a determination to act on those old agreements. So now Saudi Arabia does not need a security umbrella for its protection and has positioned itself to make its own defense decisions.
"China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi said that today the world does not have only one problem, the Ukraine issue, but there are different issues in different regions; his country wants the people there to decide the fate of the Middle East. Israeli newspapers and analysts called it a major breakthrough."
"The Far-Reaching Effects Of This Agreement Will Become Clear In The Future, But One Of Its Immediate Effects Is The Reduction Of The Cold War Between These Two Countries Among Muslim Nations, And Pakistan Is At The Forefront Of These Countries"
"Former Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett openly stated that the agreement will have an impact on Israel. Israeli defense analysts are also looking at it from the perspective of the formation of the Greater Middle East. In his opinion, the agreement between the two big and long-time rivals of the Gulf is not without reason, but it can be transformed into something bigger and wider in the future.
"The far-reaching effects of this agreement will become clear in the future, but one of its immediate effects is the reduction of the Cold War between these two countries among Muslim nations, and Pakistan is at the forefront of these countries. Pakistan has faced the adverse effects of the Iran-Saudi tension for decades. The worst terrorism has created an atmosphere of violence in Pakistan and thousands of innocent people have lost their lives in this pointless war. In which prominent people of the society, intellectuals, scholars, writers, poets, businessmen, politicians were all included.
"In the 1990s, the disintegration of Pakistan began with this proxy war in which two Muslim countries were fighting for their interests in Pakistan. Maybe they were being pushed in this war, but the field was Pakistan and Pakistan itself was getting damaged in this war.
"This was the case in other Muslim countries, where militias were formed based on the support line of Iran and Saudi Arabia, and then they fought and wreaked havoc with each other. In the last few years, this scenario has started to change and despite the wars in Yemen and Syria, these effects have not spread much in other countries. Now with the agreement of the two countries, it is hoped that this process of bloody division will stop, but there is also the possibility of healing the wounds of years."
Following are excerpts from Qazi Jawed's article:
"The Iranian Leadership Agreed To The Deal After A Long Confusion That Began In December Last Year When Xi Jinping Brought Together Middle Eastern Leaders During A Visit To Saudi Arabia"
"On this agreement, the former prime minister of Israel Naftali Bennett said that this agreement has damaged the efforts to establish a regional alliance against Iran. He described this decision as dangerous for Israel and described this change as a failure of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's government. Israel's opposition leader Yair Lapid said that the agreement between Saudi Arabia and Iran is a complete and dangerous failure of the Israeli government's foreign policy....
"It has been said in the declaration [between Saudi Arabia and Iran] that 'in response to the steps taken by China to restore good relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran, the three countries announce that an agreement has been reached between Saudi Arabia and Iran.' The Saudi official press agency says that under the agreement reached between the higher leadership of Saudi Arabia, Iran, and China, the negotiations between Saudi Arabia and Iran will be hosted by China.
"According to the agreement, the two countries will reopen their embassies within two months and respect the sovereignty of the countries and non-interference in their internal affairs. It has been noted in the statement that their goal is to promote 'good neighborly relations'... and resolve their differences through dialogue and diplomacy.
"The Iranian leadership agreed to the deal after a long confusion that began in December last year when Xi Jinping brought together Middle Eastern leaders during a visit to Saudi Arabia. After this much speculation had begun in local Saudi and Arab media."
"Despite Israel's Concern, [The Agreement] Is Being Welcomed Around The World; In A Statement Issued By The Ministry Of Foreign Affairs Of Pakistan, It Is Said That This Diplomatic Initiative Will Help Increase Regional Peace And Stability"
"Last month [on February 14-16, 2023], Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi visited China, which attracted the attention of the Arab media. Both parties, Saudi Arabia and Iran, have thanked China as well as Iraq and the Sultanate of Oman for hosting the talks in 2021 and 2022. Speaking to Noornews, a news website considered close to Iran's Supreme National Security Council, [the Iranian National Security Adviser] Ali Shamkhani said: 'Removing misunderstandings and looking to the future under Tehran-Riyadh relations will certainly promote regional stability and security and increase cooperation between the countries of the Persian Gulf and the Islamic world.'
Qazi Jawed's article
"The deal is a diplomatic victory for China in a region whose geopolitics is dominated by the U.S. This comes at a time when China is facing accusations from the West that Beijing has not taken enough steps in relation to the Russia-Ukraine war and China is calling for talks on the Ukraine war. [Chinese Foreign Minister] Wang Yi said, 'As a bonafide and trustworthy mediator, China has fulfilled its duties as a host.' Beijing will continue to play a constructive role in dealing with the hot issues of the world and continue to show its responsibility as a great nation.
"A senior Iranian security official said the deal had the backing of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. The official told Reuters: 'For this reason, Shamkhani traveled to China as a representative of the Supreme Leader.' The organization wanted to show that the supreme authority in Iran supports this decision. Riyadh wants to maintain the traditional closeness in its relations with the US, which has tense relations with both Iran and China. Despite Israel's concern, it is being welcomed around the world.
"In a statement issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Pakistan, it is said that this diplomatic initiative will help increase regional peace and stability. Praising China, Pakistan said: 'We appreciate China's visionary leadership role in this historic agreement, which demonstrates the power of positive engagement and meaningful negotiations. We are looking forward to this very positive activity. We appreciate the foresight shown by the leadership of Saudi Arabia and the Islamic Republic of Iran.' Pakistan has said that it will continue to play a positive role in the Middle East region and this move will set an example of cooperation and prosperity in the rest of the region.
"The United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres's spokesman has said that good relations between neighboring countries are necessary to bring stability to the Gulf region."
"There Is No Doubt That China Has Succeeded In The Saudi-Iran Deal, And America, India, Israel Are Facing Concern"
"Many countries in the Middle East have welcomed this development in the relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran. Iraq has welcomed the agreement between Saudi Arabia and Iran, which seems to be opening a new chapter in the relations between the two countries. According to a statement issued by the Iraqi foreign ministry, the agreement will 'reflect the integration of relations between the two sides and give a normative impetus to the cooperation of the countries of the region, which aims to fulfill a framework,' and wishes of all parties and marks the beginning of a new phase.
"Despite its ties with Iran's traditional enemy, Israel, the UAE said a positive regional dialogue would promote good neighborliness. Egypt also expressed hope that this development would help reduce tensions in the Middle East. Hassan Nasrallah, Secretary General of Lebanon's Hizbullah, said, 'without doubt, healthy relations between these two countries will benefit not only us, but also the people of Yemen and Syria and the resistance force in general.'
"But the question is whether the growing relationship between Saudi Arabia and Israel will meet a deadlock. According to Reuters, a senior Israeli official has said that even after this agreement, his country will not back off from the efforts to establish relations with Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia felt that the West's position regarding Iran was weakened.
"But it will not affect the Israeli effort to restore relations with Riyadh. According to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has blamed the former government and U.S. President Joe Biden for the Chinese-mediated agreement. But there is no doubt that China has succeeded in the Saudi-Iran deal, and America, India, Israel are facing concern."
 Mfa.gov.cn/eng/zxxx_662805/202303/t20230311_11039241.html, March 10, 2023.
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