China’s Premier Wen Jiabao will this week visit Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, the foreign ministry said on Tuesday, amid mounting international tensions over oil-rich Iran.
Saudi Arabia is already the largest provider of oil to energy-hungry China, which is under pressure to secure the energy supplies it needs to keep its booming economy going.
Wen will hold talks with leaders of the three Arab nations and attend the World Future Energy Summit in Abu Dhabi during his six-day trip, foreign ministry spokesman Liu Weimin said in a statement.
The announcement came as US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner headed to China on a visit aimed partly at narrowing differences over sanctions on Iran, which Beijing has criticised.
Washington is aiming to squeeze Iran’s crucial oil revenues by barring foreign financial institutions that do business with the Islamic Republic’s central bank from US financial markets.
But China, which relies on Iran for 11 percent of its oil supplies, has repeatedly opposed what it calls “unilateral” sanctions imposed by the United States and other Western nations.
On Tuesday the state-run Global Times newspaper said Beijing should “take countermeasures” if Chinese companies faced US sanctions as a result of “legal” trade with Iran.
Wen will meet Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdul-Aziz, UAE Vice President Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum and Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jasim bin Jabir al-Thani, among others, Liu said.