Chinese President Xi Jinping offers support to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman despite outcry over Khashoggi killing
- Beijing shrugs off controversy over journalist’s murder and war in Yemen to support kingdom’s de facto leader at G20 meeting
Chinese President Xi Jinping has offered his support to Saudi Arabia’s embattled Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the wake of the international outcry over the killing of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Xi met the prince on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Buenos Aires on Friday and said China would support the kingdom’s economic development, adding that stability was the cornerstone for prosperity and progress in the Gulf.
Xi said in a statement released by the Chinese foreign ministry that Beijing was taking a “strategic high view and long-term perspective”.
“China firmly supports Saudi Arabia in its push for economic diversification and social reforms, and provides mutual support on issues involving their core interests,” he continued.
The statement did not mention the Khashoggi murder or the ongoing conflict in Yemen, where Saudi forces have played a leading role.
The Saudi press agency reported early on Saturday that the crown prince and Xi had discussed the partnership between the two countries and ways to harmonise Saudi Arabia’s 2030 vision – a plan to diversify the economy away from oil – with China’s “Belt and Road Initiative”.
The pair were also reported to have discussed Saudi energy supplies to China and mutual investment.
The meeting between Xi and the crown prince came as the kingdom is facing mounting calls for sanctions over the death of Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
On Thursday, Canada imposed sanctions on 17 Saudi nationals accused of being involved in the murder of Khashoggi, following similar moves by France, the United States and Germany.
The CIA has said that Prince Mohammed, Saudi Arabia’s de facto leader, ordered the murder. However, US President Donald Trump has dismissed the assessment and stressed that he values US ties with the kingdom.
Riyadh gave numerous contradictory explanations about the fate of Khashoggi, who went missing after going into Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2.
Last week, the Saudis said Khashoggi had been killed and his body dismembered after failed negotiations to persuade him to return to the kingdom.
The Saudis have blamed rogue agents for the killing and charged 11 people with murder.
Saudi Arabia, the biggest global oil exporter, has been surpassed by Russia as top crude supplier to China in the past two years.
However, the kingdom is set to expand its market share in China this year for the first time since 2012, as new Chinese refiners have increased demand for crude oil.
Saudi Arabia has long sought to diversify away from its reliance on the US and has increasingly stepped up its engagement with China, its largest trading partner with US$42.36 billion in bilateral trade in 2017.
Last March, the two countries also signed US$65 billion worth of deals in areas ranging from energy to space technology.