Chinese warships tour Gulf Arab states for first time since 2010

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Beijing relies on the Middle East for oil but has tended to leave Middle Eastern diplomacy to the other four permanent members of the UNSC

This aerial photo taken on 2 January, 2017 shows a Chinese navy formation, including the aircraft carrier Liaoning (C), during military drills in the South China Sea (AFP)
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Monday 23 January 2017 14:32 UTC
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Chinese warships have embarked on a tour of Gulf Arab states for the first time in six years as Beijing has signalled a desire to play a bigger role on the global stage.

Three Chinese vessels, including a guided-missile destroyer warship, arrived in Qatar's capital Doha on Saturday following a visit to the Saudi port city of Jeddah, according to Chinese state broadcaster CCTV.

China's navy regularly tours the world and its ships patrol off the coasts of Yemen and Somalia as part of international anti-piracy operations. Visits to Gulf Arab states, where both the US and Britain have naval bases, are less common.

China's navy visited Iran for the first time in 2014 to take part in joint naval exercises with Saudi Arabia's regional arch-rival.

Beijing relies on the Middle East for oil but has tended to leave Middle Eastern diplomacy to the other four permanent members of the UN Security Council - the United States, Britain, France and Russia.

However, China has been trying to get more involved, especially in Syria peace efforts, and has taken tentative steps over the Yemen crisis too.

A senior Chinese diplomat said on Monday that Beijing could be forced to assume a role of world leadership if others step back from that position after US President Donald Trump pledged in his first speech to put "America first".