| Updated: January 18, 2016 12:42 IST
Chinese President Xi Jinping and Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif will be heading to Saudi Arabia and Iran in separate visits this week, amidst escalating tensions between the two Middle Eastern nations.
While Sharif will leave for Riyadh on Monday along with Pakistani Army Chief Raheel Sharif, Jinping is expected to leave on Tuesday.
The issue of hostility between Saudi Arabia and Iran is likely to be taken up by both leaders. Riyadh had called off diplomatic ties with Iran following the attack on its embassy in Tehran by protesters angered by the execution of a Shia cleric in Saudi Arabia earlier this month.
“China has been fully prepared to make concrete efforts to help realise regional peace and stability. This visit will be a strong drive to fulfil this target,” Chinese ambassador to Saudi Arabia Li Chengwen said, according to CCTV News.
Pakistan, too, had expressed concerns at the growing hostilities in the sensitive region.
“Pakistan is deeply concerned at the recent escalation of tension between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Islamic Republic of Iran. The prime minister has called for resolution of differences through peaceful means, in the larger interest of Muslim unity, particularly during these challenging times,” the country’s foreign office said in a statement according to Dawn.
However, while pushing for stability, the two leaders are also looking to cement their interests in the region.
The Chinese President’s visit to Saudi Arabia, Iran as well as Egypt, is strategic, given that these countries are located at the “junction point of the Silk Road Economic Belt and Maritime Silk Road”. This will be his first visit to the Middle East after coming to power.
“Beijing is expecting to cooperate with these influential countries to help restore peace and stability in the Middle East, and to elevate regional development through joint construction of the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, as well as through mechanisms such as the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank,” Xinhua reported on Monday.
Sharif will be focused on Iran, which was relieved of international sanctions on Saturday, to meet its energy needs, according to Dawn.
Sanctions on Iran were lifted on Saturday after UN nuclear watchdog International Atomic Energy Agency said that the country had complied to curb its nuclear program agreed under the nuclear deal.