Saudi Arabia has taken a step towards joining a Chinese-led regional security and trade club, as Beijing’s push for influence in the Middle East gathers momentum, reports the Financial Times. The kingdom will become a dialogue partner of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation after the move was approved by the cabinet on Wednesday, almost three months after Chinese leader Xi Jinping visited Saudi Arabia.
The SCO, a political, security and trade alliance set up in 2001 as a rival to western influence, has eight full members: China, Russia, India, Pakistan and four central Asian nations. Iran is expected to become a full member of the alliance this year after signing a memorandum of obligations last September.
Other Middle Eastern states such as Qatar and Egypt—which like Saudi Arabia have close military ties to Washington—are also dialogue partners of the SCO, a first step to full membership.
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