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Iran, China Start Implementing Strategic Deal

Iran, China Start Implementing Strategic Deal

Sunday, 16 January, 2022 - 10:00
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and his Iranian counterpart Hossein Amirabdollahian (AP)

China and Iran began implementing a strategic agreement to enhance their economic and political cooperation. The two countries signed the deal last year, which will include several sectors, including energy, security, infrastructure, and communications.

China's foreign ministry website published a summary of the meeting between Foreign Minister Wang Yi and his Iranian counterpart Hossein Amirabdollahian on Friday in Wuxi, in Jiangsu province.

Few details of the secretive deal have been published, but The New York Times reported in 2020 that it would secure a regular supply of oil for China, citing a draft of the agreement leaked to the paper.

China is Iran's leading trade partner and one of the largest buyers of this country's oil before former US President Donald Trump re-imposed sweeping unilateral sanctions on Iran in 2018.

China has officially stopped importing oil from Iran, but analysts confirm that Iranian crude oil is still entering the country as imports from other countries.

Wang told his Iranian counterpart that China would continue to "oppose the unilateral and illegal sanctions against Iran," the Foreign Ministry quoted him as saying.

Beijing has long sought to boost its relations with Tehran.

Chinese President Xi Jinping described Iran as "China's major partner in the Middle East" on a rare visit in 2016.

The meeting between Wang and Abdollahian comes as talks continue in Vienna to salvage the nuclear deal with Iran.

The 2015 agreement between Iran, the US, China, Russia, Britain, France, and Germany offered to lift sanctions on Tehran in return for curbing its nuclear program. But the US withdrew from the agreement in 2018 and re-imposed harsh sanctions on Iran, prompting Tehran to backtrack on its commitments.

Talks to revive the nuclear deal resumed in late November after being suspended in June, following the election of a hard-line conservative government in Tehran.

The Foreign Ministry statement quoted Wang telling his Iranian counterpart that China considers the United States responsible for the outcome of the nuclear deal's situation.

According to official Iranian media, top Iranian and European negotiators returned to their capitals for brief consultations, as talks in Vienna to revive the agreement reached a crucial stage.

State-owned IRNA news agency reported that the negotiators would return to Vienna within two days, but expert-level discussions would continue through the weekend.

It quoted an unnamed source saying that the number of issues of difference has decreased, and delegations are busy discussing a way of implementing any potential agreement.

The teams are negotiating on complex issues and preparing the wordings of a future document.

Tehran seeks to lift the sanctions that Washington re-imposed on it after its withdrawal from the agreement and obtain guarantees that the US withdrawal will not be repeated.

"We are discussing the details," the source said, adding that "this is one of the most tedious, long and difficult parts of the negotiations, but is essential for achieving our goal."

During the past few days, the statements of those involved in the negotiations reflected some progress while confirming disagreements on various issues.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said Friday that a renewed deal with Iran on curtailing its nuclear program remained "possible" as talks in Vienna were advancing in a "better atmosphere."

On Monday, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said that efforts by "all parties" to revive the nuclear agreement resulted in "good progress."

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian recently noted progress in the talks but said it was "too slow."

Western countries stress the need to reach an understanding quickly, especially in light of Iran's nuclear activities since it retreated from its commitments under the agreement.

For his part, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken warned that there would be "a few weeks" left to save the nuclear agreement, stressing that Washington would consider "other options" if the negotiations fail.

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