Saudi Arabia can be a bridge between the United States and China at a time of geopolitical tensions, Saudi Finance Minister Mohammed al-Jadan said Monday at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
The comments came amid questions about what worries the minister most in 2023. He called for calm and cooperation, noting his country’s ability to maintain an open dialogue with all major political forces amid Russia’s war in Ukraine, competition between Washington and Beijing, and a volatile energy market.
“I really think we need to focus on cooperation, cooperation, avoiding more geopolitical tensions and calling for calm and political solutions to geopolitical tensions,” al-Jadaan told CNBC’s Hadley Gamble.
“We made our position very clear on these issues, whether it was in the UN General Assembly or in other forums.”
Saudi Arabia’s Finance Minister Mohammed Al-Jadaan during the World Economic Forum in Davos (Switzerland).
Jason Alden |: Bloomberg |: Getty Images:
Asked about Saudi Arabia’s ability to facilitate dialogue between rival powers like the US and China, al-Jadaan replied: “I would say absolutely yes. I think we can bridge that gap.”
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United States have a relationship that dates back to the 1930s, and which has been broadly summarized as an oil-for-security relationship. The US has military deployments in Saudi Arabia, selling advanced weaponry and providing joint training and operations with the Saudi armed forces.
The Biden administration’s critical stance toward the kingdom poured cold water on the nearly century-old relationship when Saudi Arabia later refused to pump more oil into the world market to offset the loss of Russian supplies, despite pleas from the White House. . The loss of Russian oil and gas to Western markets is due to sanctions imposed by the US and the EU over Moscow’s large-scale incursion into Ukraine.
Meanwhile, China has been making inroads for years, especially economically, as Saudi Arabia’s top trading partner and largest buyer of its oil. Riyadh’s relationship with Beijing is more functional and economic than strategic, meaning it is unlikely to replace the US role in the kingdom anytime soon.
However, Saudi Arabia has been buying more Chinese weapons in recent years, particularly those that Washington was unwilling to sell to its Gulf ally, such as lethal drones. Technology transfers and Chinese infrastructure projects are also on the rise in the kingdom as Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman seeks to diversify his country’s alliances and make it more independent.
In December, Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Saudi Arabia, and the two countries signed a strategic partnership agreement, which the Chinese Foreign Ministry called at the time “an epochal stage in the history of Sino-Arab relations.”