Saudi Arabia’s Diplomatic Ascendance: A Global Chessboard Triumph

By organizing the Jeddah meeting on Ukraine at the level of security advisers on August 5 and 6, 2023, Saudi Arabia is further asserting its ascendant position on the chessboard of international diplomacy. The ability to bring together around a table representatives of Western countries including Jake Sullivan the head of the American National Security Council (NSC), the European Union (EU), but especially the BRICS and other countries of the South is a success in itself.

Most countries such as Brazil, India or China have refrained in the past from condemning Russia or taking sides in the conflict between it and Ukraine, judging that they are not directly concerned by this “European” war. Russia’s decision to suspend the Ukrainian grain export agreement on July 17 to countries in vital need is undoubtedly a strategic mistake on the part of Moscow, likely to change the perception of countries in the South. . Of the 32 million tons of cereals exported by Ukraine until July 18, China had imported more than 6 million, making it the main beneficiary of this agreement.

The participation of China, in the person of Li Hui, representative for Eurasian issues and former Chinese ambassador to Moscow, although the latter had declined the invitation to go to Copenhagen last June to take part in a previous meeting of the same type, is also a victory. This owes nothing to chance but to the privileged links that have been forged between the Saudi Kingdom and Beijing. The signs of this tightening are tangible and demonstrations of friendship have multiplied since Xi Jinping’s historic visit to Riyadh last December. On the other hand, the Saudis have very skilfully maneuvered by placing the agreement to normalize relations with Iran under the patronage of China, of which Tehran is an obligation. This agreement, which had been in negotiation for at least two years, did not need Chinese sponsorship to materialize. By involving China, the Saudis ensure the implementation of the agreement and reinforce the ascending weight of China in world diplomacy.

Riyadh’s rapprochement with the BRICS testifies to the evolution of Saudi Arabia in recent years. By breaking away from the Western bloc to which it had been closely linked since 1945, Riyadh now intends to play a growing role in this emerging pole. A leading role that corresponds to its financial scope and its ability to influence the global economy by putting its oil production at the exclusive service of its interests.

By consolidating its position on the world diplomatic chessboard, Riyadh is gaining its stripes of regional power, the main interlocutor of powers such as Russia, China or India, but also Western countries. The United States is forced to admit its loss of influence with a main player in its regional strategy. Loss of influence does not mean rupture. The Saudis know that changes in the world will take time to materialize. For the time being, Saudi Arabia is content, with more or less success, with the role of mediator in international crises such as the internal conflict in Sudan. This action, however publicized it may be, also highlights the limits of the ability to influence the course of events. The Saudis are currently unable to resolve the Yemen issue.

By normalizing its relations with Turkey and Iran, Riyadh is emerging as a leading interlocutor and as a recognized regional power, which will allow it to earn its stripes within the BRICS. By succeeding in bringing together four of the five players in this group, Mohammed Ben Salmane recorded a significant diplomatic success and took a big step in this direction.

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