Updated 11:29 AM EDT, Tue, Jun 16, 2020

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China Aims to Stay Neutral as President Xi Jinping Gears for Historic Middle East Tour

Chinese President Xi Jinping, Iran, Saudi Arabia,

(Photo : Getty Images) As Chinese President Xi Jinping is set to embark on an unprecedented middle eastern tour, China has clarified that it would stay neutral in ongoing dispute between Iran and Saudi Arabia.

China would stay completely neutral in current Saudi Arabia and Iran conflict, Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Ming told reporters on Monday, as Chinese President Xi Jinping is set to embark on a unprecedented tour of Saudi Arabia and Iran this week.            

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"Regarding some of the region's problems, China has always taken a balanced and just position," Zhang said, when reporters quizzed him about existing tension between Riyadh and Tehran. "If the Middle East is not stable, I'm afraid the world can't be very peaceful. If a country or a region is not stable, it cannot realize development'.'

Sunni-dominated Saudi Arabia and Shiite-majority Iran have never enjoyed good relations, but ever since Tehran executed Shi'ite cleric Nimr al-Nimr on Jan. 2, tension between two Middle Eastern countries has escalated to new level.  So much so that both countries have completely cut off diplomatic ties.   

Given that China is immensely dependent on both Saudi Arabia and Iran for oil and natural gas needs, its decision to remain neutral was very much expected. Traditionally too, China has always remain detached from the Middle Eastern tension, especially with respect to Israel and Palestine problem.

Political analysts believe that President Xi's upcoming Middle Eastern tour would not change China's detached policy towards Middle Eastern regional problems, but the Chinese leader is expected to seek for deeper economic and diplomatic ties - with oil and energy obviously being very high on president's agenda.              

Along with Saudi Arabia and Iran, Chinese President Xi will also visit Egypt, where he is expected to make a historic speech at the Arab League's headquarters in Cairo. Xi is also expected to meet Arab League's Secretary General Nabil Arabi in Egypt.      

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