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International relations

China's embrace of Saudi Arabia leaves Iran out in the cold

Beijing ditches neutrality at opportunity to fill gap left by U.S.

Chinese President Xi Jinping, left, is welcomed by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on Dec. 8.   © Reuters

TEHRAN -- Fears are mounting in Iran that China's rapidly warming relations with Saudi Arabia run counter to Beijing's long-standing pledge of neutrality. Under the banner of non-interference, China has never tried to play the role of a mediator between Iran and rivals in the Middle East. But the joint statements released during President Xi Jinping's recent visit to Saudi Arabia have left policymakers in Tehran wondering if there is a change of direction in China's policies toward the region, especially in the wake of a reduced U.S. presence there.

A joint statement released Friday after the meeting of China and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) nations referred to Iran as a supporter of regional terrorist groups and a proliferator of ballistic missiles and drones. It also noted the importance of addressing "the Iranian nuclear file and destabilizing regional activities."

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