China’s efforts in brokering a deal between Iran and Saudi Arabia have been seen by analysts as broader signs of a “changing global order”.

During talks in Beijing on Friday, Saudi Arabia and Iran agreed to re-establish diplomatic relations and reopen their embassies within two months. The agreement also stipulated affirming “the respect for the sovereignty of states and the non-interference in internal affairs of states”.

Iranian state media posted images and video of Ali Shamkhani, secretary of the Supreme National Security Council of Iran, shaking hands with Saudi national security adviser Musaad bin Mohammed al-Aiban, with Wang Yi, China’s most senior diplomat, standing in between.

China’s role as a mediator in resolving longstanding issues between the regional foes had not been made public prior to the announcement.

Wang reportedly said China will continue to play a constructive role in handling hotspot issues and demonstrate responsibility as a major nation. He added that as a “good-faith” and “reliable” mediator, China has fulfilled its duties as a host for dialogue.

‘Low risk, high reward for China’

The two Gulf countries severed ties in 2016 when Saudi Arabia executed a prominent Shia Muslim scholar, triggering protests in Iran with protesters attacking its embassy in Tehran.

Both sides have stood on opposing sides and engaged in proxy wars in many conflict zones in the Middle East.

In Yemen, with the war now well into its eighth year, the Houthi rebels are backed by Tehran, while Riyadh leads a military coalition in support of the government.

Since 2021, talks have been held between both sets of officials in Iraq and Oman but no deals were reached.

As the United States does not have good relations with Iran, China is “in a good position to broker an agreement”, he said.

“It’s a relatively low-risk and high-reward activity for China to engage in because the Chinese are not committed to any particular outcome,” Mogielnicki said.

“Better diplomatic linkages between Saudi Arabia and Iran will reduce the likelihood for regional conflict and will reduce regional tensions. That’s a good thing for China, for the US and for regional actors as well.”

Sina Toossi, non-resident senior fellow at the Center for International Policy in Washington, DC, told Al Jazeera that China has “a clear interest” in improving ties and stability in the region as the Gulf is a vital source of energy for Beijing, which imports energy from Iran and Saudi Arabia.

In 2019, when Saudi oil facilities were targeted by the Houthis, it temporarily affected the country’s oil production, leading to an increase in global oil prices of more than 14 percent over the weekend, the biggest spike in more than a decade.

Toossi said this was “the worst-case scenario for China, that a conflict in the Persian Gulf would affect its energy supply and economic interests”.

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