The foreign ministers of Middle Eastern rivals Iran and Saudi Arabia held official talks for the first time since 2016 in China’s capital Beijing on Thursday. According to the official Xinhua News Agency, Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Qin Gang witnessed the resumption of diplomatic relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran in Beijing. Qin met with Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud and Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian. The two foreign ministers, Faisal and Amir-Abdollahian, are in Beijing for a meeting. After the meeting, Qin witnessed the signing of a joint statement between Saudi Arabia and Iran. The two countries announced the resumption of diplomatic relations with immediate effect. Qin said that, with the joint efforts of China, Saudi Arabia and Iran, the Saudi Arabia-Iran Talks in Beijing last month achieved significant results. Since then, the two sides have conducted sound high-level interactions and fully demonstrated their constructive attitude and sincerity, which China greatly appreciates. China supports the two sides in continuously taking new steps toward easing relations, he added. The improvement of Saudi Arabia-Iran relations provides a stronger guarantee for maintaining regional peace and stability, sets an important example for countries in the world to resolve conflicts through dialogue and consultation, and provides wonderful practice for advocating the Global Security Initiative, as well as for building a community with a shared future for humanity, according to Qin. Qin stressed that China firmly supports regional countries in upholding strategic independence, strengthening solidarity and coordination, shaking off external interference, and truly holding the future and destiny of the Middle East in their own hands. “We will continue to do our best to play the role of mediator with good will and reliability, provide the necessary support for both sides, and contribute to security and stability in the Middle East,” Qin said. Faisal and Amir-Abdollahian expressed their appreciation for China’s commitment to living up to its responsibility as a major country and its support for the successful holding of the talks in Beijing, and thanked China for once again providing strong support for the important meeting between the two sides. The two foreign ministers said they will promote the implementation of the Beijing agreement, continuously improve bilateral relations and work together to safeguard regional peace, security and stabilityA video showed Hossein Amir-Abdollahian and Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud being encouraged to shake hands by their Chinese counterpart in Beijing. A joint statement said they discussed reopening diplomatic missions within two months and resuming flights. The states agreed to restore ties in a deal brokered by China last month.It was seen as sign of China’s growing influence in the Middle East and a challenge to the dominant role of the US in the region. China has close diplomatic and economic ties with both Saudi Arabia and Iran, while US-Saudi relations have been strained in recent years and the US has had no diplomatic relations with Iran for four decades. Amir-Abdollahian and Prince Faisal emphasised the importance of implementing the deal to restore ties in a way that “expands mutual trust and the fields of co-operation and helps create security, stability and prosperity”. They also said they had discussed the resumption of bilateral visits. An Iranian official said earlier this month that President Ebrahim Raisi had accepted an invitation from King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud to visit Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia cut ties with Iran seven years ago after crowds stormed its embassy in Tehran. This followed Saudi Arabia’s execution of a prominent Shia Muslim cleric. Tensions between them have remained high since then. This rapprochement between the two great Middle East rivals is an extraordinary turn of events, as well as something of a diplomatic triumph for China.