efe-epaBeijing

China remains determined to maintain strategic ties with Iran regardless of regional tensions in the Middle East, its president has said, ahead of Saudi Arabia crown prince's two-day China trip that began Thursday.

In a statement, the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs Thursday said that President Xi Jinping met the speaker of Iran's parliament, Ali Larijani, and told him that his desire to develop close ties with the Islamic republic remained unchanged.

"Regardless of how the international and regional situation develops China's determination to develop a deep strategic link with Iran will remain unchanged," Xi told Larijani, according to the statement.

Xi met with Larijani at the Great Hall of the People on Wednesday and pledged to play a constructive role in maintaining regional peace and stability, the statement said.

The Chinese president said that Beijing was willing to maintain close communication and coordination with Iran on regional issues.

Larijani highlighted Iran's intention to strengthen mutual trust, promote pragmatic cooperation and mutual support on international and regional issues, according to the statement.

China is part of the group of countries - along with Russia, France, the United Kingdom and Germany - that continue to support the 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran after the United States withdrew the deal last year.

The statement came hours before Xi meets with the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohamed bin Salman, in Beijing.

The prince, who arrived in China after his India and Pakistan trip as part of Saudi Arabia's look east efforts, will also meet with first Vice Premier Han Zheng. The two will chair the third meeting of the joint high-level bilateral committee between the two countries.

Bin Salman's visit comes amid growing tensions between Riyadh and Tehran.

The two regional rivals, vying for supremacy in the Middle East since 1979, have not maintained diplomatic relations after January 2016. This has partly prevented Beijing from sustaining a balanced equation between the two powers in the oil-rich region.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said in a press conference last week that China would continue strengthening bilateral cooperation with Saudi Arabia.

Geng said China and Saudi Arabia maintain deep political confidence and cooperation in fields such as energy and infrastructure as well as the Belt and Road Initiative, the multi-billion dollar infrastructure initiative also known as New Silk Road.

In recent years, the Chinese president has led a policy of increasing its global influence in strategic regions, such as Africa, Latin America and the Middle East, where it seeks to strengthen its presence.