From the United States to China and Europe, Saudi Arabia seizes the diplomatic moment | Stone Apps

Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev last Wednesday became his country’s first leader to visit Saudi Arabia in 30 years, the latest recipient of a Saudi diplomatic offensive that has included the United States, France, China and other countries. other powers.

Four years after the assassination of dissident Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul alienated foreign leaders from the world’s largest oil producer, Saudi Arabia is taking advantage of the energy crisis triggered by the war in Ukraine to rehabilitate and reposition itself with diplomatic partners.

In July, US President Joe Biden, who pledged during his election campaign to make his host an international pariah, met with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz, who US intelligence agencies said was probably the mastermind behind the 2018 murder.

Media footage showed the two men bumping fists, ahead of high-profile talks including energy, Iran and opening up Saudi skies to Israeli commercial jets.

In August, the Saudi crown prince met French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris, while his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping is expected to make Riyadh the destination of his first post-pandemic overseas trip. Other recent moves include meetings with Turkish and British leaders, a rapprochement with longtime foe Iran, and a joint FIFA World Cup bid with Egypt.

Saudi Arabia knows it is in demand as the biggest foreign oil supplier to both China and the United States, despite America’s increased energy self-sufficiency in recent years. Analysts expect domestic production of U.S. crude to fall over the next few years as Beijing seeks to lock in supply to ensure economic growth.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine six months ago and Western efforts to sanction Russia and wean Europe off Russian energy have driven oil prices to levels not seen in more than a year. decade.

OPEC energy suppliers, led by Saudi Arabia, are keen to keep them high, raising only a tiny increase in output despite Biden’s pleas and now openly discussing cutting power. the production.

The war in Ukraine may show no signs of ending, but Saudi Arabia knows its window of opportunity is not unlimited. Analysis by consultancy McKinsey and others suggests centuries of rising global oil demand could peak over the next 3-5 years, undermined by the rise of electric and hybrid vehicles.

This could shift the balance of power towards producers of natural gas, vital for both heat and power generation and giving the advantage to nations such as Russia, Canada and the regional bogeyman of the world. Saudi Arabia, Qatar, partially blocked by Saudi and Gulf allies in 2017 over multiple issues, including its support for the Muslim Brotherhood and its alleged “terrorism”.

Soaring US-China tensions could not have come at a better time for Riyadh, with the Biden administration determined to prevent Saudi Arabia from drifting too far into Beijing’s autocratic sphere of influence.

Ahead of his July visit, Biden pledged to “reorient, not sever” relations with the kingdom, which he said had been a strategic partner of the United States for 80 years. Even before Khashoggi’s murder and the severance of relations, however, Saudi Arabia had grown diplomatically and economically closer to Beijing.

This includes a 2016 “strategic partnership” linked to “long-term stable energy cooperation” and an increase in trade valued at $65.2 billion in 2020, from less than $20 billion with the United States the same year. China and the United States sell weapons to Saudi Arabia, but there are reports that Beijing is also helping Riyadh build its own ballistic missiles alongside other arms deals.

European states are also in a hurry to conquer Saudi Arabia. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson paid a high-profile visit to Saudi Arabia in March, shortly after Russia invaded Ukraine, seen as a relatively bare bones bid for energy supplies to Riyadh and neighboring states in the Gulf. The visit of the Saudi Crown Prince to France follows several years of efforts by the two countries to improve their relations.

As the West woos Riyadh, Saudi Arabia appears to be working to strengthen its own regional relations. In June, the Saudi Crown Prince visited Turkey for the first time since Khashoggi’s murder, shaking hands with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan as if the latter had never publicly accused “the highest levels of the Saudi government. “of murder.