China’s Xi Says Persian Gulf Stands at ‘Crossroads of War and Peace’

FILE PHOTO: Chinese President Xi Jinping attends a meeting at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China May 24, 2019. REUTERS/Florence Lo

BEIJING, June 28 (Reuters) – The Persian Gulf region is in a very sensitive situation and is “standing at a crossroads of war and peace”, Chinese President Xi Jinping said on Friday, calling for calm and restraint and talks to resolve the issue.

Tensions have risen in the Gulf, especially between Iran and the United States, after Washington accused Iran of carrying out attacks on six tankers, which Tehran denies, in May and June.

Last week, Iran shot down a U.S. drone it said was in its airspace. The United States said it was in international skies. U.S. President Donald Trump planned, then called off at the last minute, air strikes on Iran.

Meeting United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Osaka, Xi said that the Gulf region was “standing at the crossroads of war and peace”, state news agency Xinhua reported.

“China always stands on the side of peace and opposes war,” the report paraphrased Xi as saying. “All parties must remain calm and exercise restraint, strengthen dialogue and consultations, and jointly safeguard regional peace and stability.”

China has close business and energy ties with Iran, but has had to step carefully as it has also been courting Iran‘s regional rival, Saudi Arabia.

The Chinese government’s top diplomat warned last week that the world should not open a “Pandora’s Box” in the Middle East, as he denounced U.S. pressure on Iran and called on it not to drop out of a landmark nuclear deal. (Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Stephen Coates and Neil Fullick)