Xi Jinping’s Iran visit is of ‘historic significance’: ambassador

January 20, 2016

TEHRAN - President Xi Jinping’s Middle East trip, which along with Iran and Saudi Arabia includes a stop in General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s Egypt, comes at a historical juncture where the Middle East is in distress.

Regardless of how regional issues such as the Saudi Arabia-Iran tension, the future of Syria, and the battle against terrorism can be impacted by the trip, international experts see it a landmark in the history of Sino-Iran relations, a highlight in the remarks of China’s ambassador to Tehran Pang Sen.
The trip, a first in more than a decade, is the first presidential visit to Iran after the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) entered into force. The dragon’s thirst for oil and Iran’s dire need for cutting-edge technology and external investment has made it the opportune time for the two countries to look at the future more strategically.
In the run-up to the visit, China’s ambassador to Tehran Pang appeared in a press conference on January 19 at the embassy of China in Tehran, where he fielded questions from Iranian and Chinese reporters.
A key question concerned the role of China in redesigning Arak’ heavy water reactor, in reply to which Pang said the process is a major theme of the JCPOA and China has proposed its plans for the project, which have been welcomed both by Iran and other 5+1 members.
The ambassador mentioned that prior to the negotiations, China had already dispatched two expert teams to Iran to exchange ideas with Iranians on the issue.
“As the next step we will keep close contact with other 5+1 members and coordinate the process,” Pang said, adding that China is ready to cooperate with Iran in the field of nuclear energy under international regulations, under which the two sides can collaborate in the fields of isotope production, seawater desalination, and nuclear power plants.
Inquired about whether President Xi will seek to mediate between Saudi Arabia and Iran given the recent dispute between Tehran and Riyadh, Pang underscored that the security of the Middle East is the security of the world as the region is sitting on colossal oil and gas reservoirs.
“Iran and Saudi Arabia are two key regional countries, with both of which China maintains excellent relations. We hope the two countries keep peaceful, cordial relations with other countries in the region and help each other to develop peace in the region,” the ambassador noted.
To Pang, regional countries may not agree on some issues and this is quite natural, however, there is a bit of history behind the Iran-Saudi Arabia tension and through political dialogue, solutions are reachable. The ambassador expressed his country’s preparedness to play its role in restoring peace and stability in the region.
On possible outcomes of the trip, Ambassador Pang reminded that this is the first highest-ranking visit to Iran by a Chinese official in more than a decade.
“The trip is of historic significance as it bridges the past and the future,” Pang made the remark. “China has a strategic look at its ties with Iran and the post-sanctions era is a great opportunity for the two countries to boost relations”.
Pang’s words on terrorism and if China ever intends to join the anti-terrorism quadrilateral coalition (of Russia, Iran, Syria, and Iraq) were unambiguous, where he emphasized that terrorism is a global challenge and his country backs up any anti-terrorism initiative as China is a victim of terrorism itself.
However, the ambassador emphasized that acting on double standards in battling extremism and attributing it to religions and nationalities should be avoided. “The United Nation should play a coordinating role and countries are required to form a united coalition,” Pang further noted.
In reply to a question on the role of China in the Syria crisis, Pang said China has been playing a very active role in the crisis and attended three ministerial sessions held on the conflict, where the country has put forwards proposals.
“On the Syrian crisis, I should say that solutions need to be within the framework of the United Nation’s Charter, the territorial integrity of Syria must be respected, the Syrian people should decide the fate of their country themselves, and solutions should be politically-oriented and free of violence,” Pang highlighted.
At the end, the ambassador commented on the prospect of Iran’s membership in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and the anti-terrorism mission of the organization, where he stressed that the SCO is a seminal platform for battling terrorism and relevant mechanisms have been defined by the organization.
The ambassador then referred to the important role of Iran in the body and stated that the nuclear accord with Iran has resulted in a better membership opportunity for Iran in the future. The ambassador expressed hope that Iran will join the organization in the future.

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Highlight:
“The trip is of historic significance as it bridges the past and the future and China has a strategic look at its ties with Iran and the post-sanctions era is a great opportunity for the two countries to boost relations.”