Chinese President Xi Jinping is expected to visit Saudi Arabia, the oil-rich kingdom’s foreign minister said, days after the leader of the world’s most populous nation secured a third term in office.
Prince Faisal bin Farhan hailed the “historical and solid relationship” between the major oil exporter and Beijing after talks with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi.
“Our meeting today comes at an important time, as it precedes the expected visit of the Chinese president to the kingdom,” Prince Faisal told the Al Arabiya TV channel.
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Saudi Arabia is also “finalizing arrangements” for summit talks between China and Arab countries, he added.
Xi, who extended his decade in power last week, has only left China once since the early days of the coronavirus pandemic when he visited Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan in September.
The Chinese embassy in Saudi Arabia did not comment when asked by AFP about Xi’s expected visit.
China’s ministry of foreign affairs meanwhile said it had “no information to offer” on the matter.
The potential visit comes at a time of strained ties between Saudi Arabia and long-standing ally the United States after the OPEC+ cartel slashed oil production, ignoring pleas from Washington.
The decision infuriated US President Joe Biden, who flew to Saudi Arabia in July, fist-bumping with de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, 37, despite once pledging to make the country a “pariah” over the 2018 murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Wang said Saudi Arabia occupies a “priority position in China’s overall diplomacy”, according to the official Xinhua news agency.
Xi visited Saudi Arabia in January 2016 — the year before Prince Mohammed was named as heir to the throne, ushering in a period of reform. The Saudi prince made the trip to China in early 2019.