BEIJING, March 8 Describing China as a friend to
both Saudi Arabia and Iran, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi
said on Wednesday he hopes both countries can resolve their
differences through talks, ahead of a visit by the Saudi king to
China has traditionally played little role in Middle East
conflicts or diplomacy, despite its reliance on the region for
oil. But it has been trying to get more involved in efforts to
end Syria's six-year-old civil war, where Riyadh supports rebels
battling President Bashar al-Assad.
Last year China also offered support for Yemen's government,
which is backed by a Saudi-led Gulf Arab coalition in a war
against the Iranian-aligned Houthi movement that controls much
of the country.
China has had to tread a careful line, though, as it also
has close relations with Iran. President Xi Jinping visited both
Saudi Arabia and Iran in January last year.
Wang said China welcomes Saudi Arabia's King Salman's visit
to China. He did not give a date, but diplomatic sources in
Beijing say it is likely to be once China's annual parliamentary
session has wrapped up next Wednesday.
"We hope that Saudi Arabia and Iran can resolve the problems
that exist between them via equal and friendly consultations,"
Wang said at his annual news conference on the sidelines of
"China is friends with both Saudi Arabia and Iran. If there
is a need, China is willing to play our necessary role," he
added, without elaborating.
King Salman began a month-long Asian tour late February to
build ties with the world's fastest growing importers of Saudi
oil and promote investment opportunities, including the sale of
a stake in its giant state firm Saudi Aramco.
(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Michael Perry)