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Saudi Arabia joins China-led security bloc, SCO

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Kabul: Saudi Arabia’s cabinet approved on Wednesday a decision to join the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, as Riyadh builds a long-term partnership with China despite U.S. security concerns.

Saudi Arabia has approved a memorandum on granting the kingdom the status of a dialogue partner in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), state news agency SPA said.

The SCO is a political and security union of countries spanning much of Eurasia, including China, India and Russia.

Formed in 2001 by Russia, China and former Soviet states in Central Asia, the body has been expanded to include India and Pakistan, with a view to playing a bigger role as counterweight to Western influence in the region.

Iran also signed documents for full membership last year.

Joining the SCO was discussed during a visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping to Saudi Arabia last December, according to Reuters.

Dialogue partner status will be a first step within the organization before granting the kingdom full membership in the mid-term, they said.

Earlier Saudi Aramco Company announced its investment, by finalizing a planned joint venture in northeast China and acquiring a stake in a privately controlled petrochemical group.

Riyadh’s growing ties with Beijing have raised security concerns in Washington, its traditional ally.

Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states have voiced concern about what they see as a withdrawal from the region by main security guarantor the United States, and have moved to diversify partners. Washington says it will stay an active partner in the region.

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