BEIJING • China and Saudi Arabia will increase their cooperation in the oil sector, including in Saudi oil exports to China.
The two countries said this in a joint statement issued yesterday at the end of Saudi Arabian King Salman’s visit to Beijing.
The world’s largest oil exporter has been looking to cement ties with the world’s second-largest economy.
After losing market share to Russia last year, Saudi Arabia has sought to boost oil sales to China, the world’s second-largest oil market, by working mostly with China’s top three state oil firms.
The joint statement issued by China’s official Xinhua news agency said: “Both sides stress the importance of stability in world oil markets to the global economy… China appreciates Saudi Arabia being a safe and dependable oil supplier to the world market, and the role it plays in ensuring the stability of the global oil market,” it said.
King Salman oversaw the signing of deals worth as much as US$65 billion (S$91 billion) on the first full day of his visit to Beijing last Thursday.
Saudi Arabia’s octogenarian monarch – who has overseen the launch of an ambitious economic reform plan since his accession two years ago – was on a month-long tour of Asia that had earlier taken him to Malaysia, Indonesia and Japan.
He has left China to head back to his kingdom.
The King was due to visit the Maldives yesterday, but the visit was postponed due to a local outbreak of flu, the government of the Indian Ocean archipelago said last Friday.
China has traditionally played little role in Middle East conflicts or diplomacy despite its reliance on the region for oil. However, it has been trying to get more involved in efforts to end Syria’s six-year 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.
The joint statement said China and Saudi Arabia stressed their support for Yemen’s legal government.
China’s renewed diplomatic push with the Middle East continues this week when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visits China.