Iran, China sign 25-year cooperation accord

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In 2016, China, one of Iran’s largest trading partners and long-time ally, agreed to boost bilateral trade by more than 10 times to $600 billion in the next decade.

Trilateral naval exercise with Iran, Russia and China in Gulf of Oman and Indian Ocean, Dec. 2019 (photo credit: HOSSEIN ZOHREVAND/TASNIM NEWS AGENCY)

Trilateral naval exercise with Iran, Russia and China in Gulf of Oman and Indian Ocean, Dec. 2019

(photo credit: HOSSEIN ZOHREVAND/TASNIM NEWS AGENCY)

DUBAI – The Chinese and Iranian foreign ministers on Saturday signed a 25-year cooperation agreement between the two allies in a ceremony carried live on state television.

“Relations between the two countries have now reached the level of strategic partnership and China seeks to comprehensively improve relations with Iran,” China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi was quoted by Iran’s state media as telling his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif.

“Our relations with Iran will not be affected by the current situation, but will be permanent and strategic,” Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi was earlier quoted by Iranian news agencies as saying.

“Iran decides independently on its relations with other countries and is not like some countries that change their position with one phone call.”

Wang met President Hassan Rouhani ahead of the signing of the agreement, which is expected to include Chinese investments in key sectors such as energy and infrastructure.

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Rouhani voiced appreciation for Beijing’s support within Tehran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers and called for more coronavirus vaccine exports to Iran, the worst-hit country by the pandemic in the Middle East.

“Cooperation between the two countries is very important for the implementation of the nuclear accord and the fulfillment of obligations by European countries,” Rouhani said, according to his official website.

“Regarding the coronavirus vaccine, it is necessary to increase cooperation between the two countries, and we want more vaccines from China to be provided.”

The accord is an example of “successful diplomacy,” Rouhani’s adviser Hesameddin Ashena was cited by Iranian media as saying. “A country’s strength is in its ability to join coalitions, not to remain isolated.”

Saeed Khatibzadeh, an Iranian foreign ministry spokesman, said the document was a “roadmap” for trade, economic and transportation cooperation, with a “special focus on the private sectors of the two sides.”

China, one of Iran’s largest trading partners and a long-standing ally, agreed in 2016 to boost bilateral trade by more than 10 times to $600 billion over a decade.

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Its commerce ministry said on Thursday that Beijing will try to safeguard the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and defend the legitimate interests of Sino-Iranian relations.

The United States and the other Western powers party to the deal are at odds with Tehran over which side should first return to the accord, which was abandoned by former US President Donald Trump in 2018.

The accord comes as Tehran hardens its stance towards the United States and the European signatories of the 2015 nuclear accord with world powers.

On Thursday, China’s commerce ministry said the country will make efforts to safeguard the Iran nuclear deal and defend the legitimate interests of Sino-Iranian relations.

China’s comments came after Reuters reported that Iran has “indirectly” moved record volumes of oil into China in recent months, marked as supplies from other countries, even as China customs data showed that no Iranian oil was imported in the first two months of this year.

US President Joe Biden has sought to revive talks with Iran on the nuclear deal abandoned by former President Donald Trump in 2018, although harsh economic measures remain in place that Tehran insists be lifted before any negotiations resume.

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The United States and the other Western powers that signed the 2015 deal appear at odds with Tehran over which side should return to the accord first, making it unlikely that US sanctions which have crippled Iran’s economy can be quickly removed.

However, the OPEC member’s oil exports climbed in January after a boost in the fourth quarter, despite US sanctions, in a sign that the end of Trump’s term as U.S. president may be changing buyer behavior, after a sharp drop in Iranian exports to China and other Asian customers since late 2018.

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