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Saudi Arabia to host inaugural Chinese-Arab summit in December

China and Arab nations will hold a milestone summit in Saudi Arabia early next month, setting up the possibility of Chinese President Xi Jinping visiting the kingdom for the first time in seven years.

Li Xuhang, China’s consul-general in Dubai, said the gathering would happen in early December, according to a statement posted on the consulate’s website on Tuesday.

Jinping is expected to visit Saudi Arabia that same month, according to Riyadh’s foreign minister, but the consul statement did not specify whether the trip will coincide with the summit.

The envoy told an Emirati newspaper that the summit would involve face-to-face exchanges between leaders from China and Arab nations, according to a separate Foreign Ministry statement dated November 4.

The summit comes in the backdrop of Riyadh and other Gulf countries shoring up links with Asian markets amid strained ties between Saudi Arabia and its long-standing ally, the United States, after the OPEC+ cartel slashed oil production, ignoring pleas from Washington.

Chinese President Xi expected to visit Saudi Arabia

Long overdue trip

Xi is likely to use the visit to bolster ties given that his last trip was in January 2016. Saudi Arabia was China’s largest source of foreign oil ahead of Russia in October, according to customs data from the world’s second-biggest economy.

Reports appeared in March that China and Saudi Arabia were again in talks to settle oil deals in yuan, a topic the two nations have discussed for six years. That change would undercut the dollar, which has long been the default currency for pricing energy contracts around the world.

Xi told Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman during a phone call in April that Beijing “puts a priority” on deepening ties with Riyadh, and wants “high-level” cooperation on energy, trade and high-tech industries.

Earlier this year, Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit and Zhai Jun, ambassador and special envoy of the Chinese government in the Middle East, discussed various issues, including cooperation between the Arab world and China.

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