Beijing, December 23: Chinese President Xi Jinping has demonstrated his preference for Saudi Arabia over Iran by signing a comprehensive agreement on strategic partnership and a harmonisation plan with Saudi Arabia's King Salman Abdulaziz Al Saud, Geo Politik reported.

Iran's Foreign Ministry summoned the Chinese ambassador to Tehran over the joint statement and expressed displeasure. Iran's National Security Committee has termed Beijing's decision as "China's interference in Iran's internal affairs conflicts with good international cooperation." Iranian lawmakers fear that China's ties with Saudi Arabia could affect relations between China and Iran, according to Geo Politik.

Iran's experts have said that the development counters China's long-standing pledge of neutrality. Under the banner of non-interference, China has never tried to play the role of mediator between Iran and rivals in the Middle East, Geo Politik reported. The joint statements released during Xi's visit to Saudi Arabia have left lawmakers in Iran wondering if China has made a change in its policy towards the region. COVID-19 Surge: China Struggling to Choose Between Economic Recovery and Coronavirus Outbreak Control.

The joint statement issued last week after the meeting between China and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) nations has referred to Iran as a supporter of regional terrorist groups and a proliferator of ballistic missiles and drones. The joint statement emphasised on the importance of addressing "the Iranian nuclear file and destabilizing regional activities" and made a reference to the disputed islands in the Strait of Hormuz, according to the report.

Iran has concerns regarding the slow pace of investments that China had committed when it signed a 25-year cooperation agreement with Iran last year. In response to China's decision to seek closer ties with Saudi Arabia, a political advisor to Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi said that Iran had stood up against plots by Saudi Arabia and the US nearly a decade ago when they intended to destabilize the countries in the region. Mohammad Jamshidi claimed that Iran fought terrorists to restore regional stability while Saudi Arabia and US-backed ISIS/Al-Qaeda in Syria and brutalized Yemen, as per the news report. Jamshidi's remarks reminded China of Saudi Arabia's credentials and noted that China should not ignore Iran for Saudi Arabia.

As per the news report, China's biggest energy supplier is Saudi Arabia and Beijing is making efforts to have a long-term relationship with Riyadh to address its energy needs. Senior political analyst Sabah Zanganeh said that the Chinese government wants to ensure that it has a stable energy provider. Zanganeh who has served as a lawmaker, a deputy culture minister, and Iran's ambassador to the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) stressed that China addressed its energy needs through purchases from Iran, according to Geo Politik report. However, the energy sources which are being explored by China are subject to many problems, including sanctions by the United States. COVID-19 Surge: China Says 37 Million People Contracted Coronavirus in a Single Day This Week.

According to Zanganeh, Iran's problem is that it has restricted itself to a handful of nations. After Xi Jinping's visit to Saudi Arabia, the Chinese President and leaders of the Persian Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) issued a statement that included three articles with "hostile rhetoric" against Iran.

Iran and Saudi Arabia have differences over the ownership of three islands - Greater Tunb, Lesser Tunb and Abu Musa. Iran has governed the three islands since 1971. However, United Arab Emirates has claimed over the three islands. Iran has maintained that the islands were "inseparable parts of Iran's pure soil."

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