China calls for regional dialogue amid efforts to establish strategic partnerships

October 11, 2020 - 21:9

TEHRAN – Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi has called for building a new platform in the region to deescalate tensions through dialogue among all stakeholders as China held talks with at least two countries in the Western Asia region to establish comprehensive strategic partnerships with.

“China proposes to build a regional multilateral dialogue platform with equal participation of all stakeholders,” the Chinese Foreign Ministry said in a statement following a meeting between the foreign ministers of Iran and China on Saturday, according to an AFP report.

The platform would “enhance mutual understanding through dialogue and explore political and diplomatic solutions to security issues in the Middle East [West Asia]”, the statement added.

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif visited the southern Chinese province of Yunnan on Friday. He traveled to China at the invitation of Wang. On Saturday, Zarif held talks with his Chinese counterpart.

Following the talks, the chief Iranian diplomat said he held “fruitful” talks with Wang.

“Fruitful talks in beautiful Tengchong with my friend Wang Yi on Iran-China Comprehensive Strategic Partnership,” Zarif said in a tweet on Saturday, adding that Iran and China “rejected U.S. unilateralism and U.S. attempts to create unipolar world.”

Zarif also said that they agreed on strengthening the bilateral ties including a 25-year partnership plan, preserving a 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers, and moving forward with collaboration on the Covid-19 vaccine and regional cooperation.

Wang and Zarif also reiterated their commitment to the Iran nuclear deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), according to the Chinese Foreign Ministry.

U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew the U.S. from the JCPOA on May 8, 2018, reimposing sweeping economic sanctions on Iran. All remaining parties to the JCPOA, including China, has strongly opposed the U.S. sanction while underlining the need to preserve the Iran nuclear deal.

According to AFP, Wang added that support for the Iranian nuclear deal would be a precondition of entry to the regional forum.

Iran and China are negotiating over the 25-year partnership plan that, if finalized, would raise the cooperation between Tehran and Beijing to an unprecedented level, especially in the oil and gas sector. According to the plan’s details that have been leaked to the press so far, China will invest a whopping $400 billion in various Iranian sectors including oil and gas. In exchange, Iran will ensure steady energy supplies to China for a period of 25 years at a discounted rate.

A draft of the plan was approved by the government of Hassan Rouhani in June. Since then, Zarif intensified talks with the Chinese side to finalize the partnership plan as soon as possible.

China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said on Friday that Beijing was willing to deepen its strategic partnership with Tehran.
Speaking at a regular press conference on October 9, she said, “During Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif's upcoming visit to China, he will have talks with State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi. We would like to work with Iran to deepen our bilateral comprehensive strategic partnership.”

Responding to a question on the new U.S. sanctions that targeted eighteen Iranian banks, Chunying said the U.S. “arbitrarily imposes unwarranted unilateral actions such as economic blockade and financial sanctions against other countries, severely undermining international political and economic order, the global governance system, and the sanctioned countries' capabilities to develop their economy and improve people's lives.”

She added, “As COVID-19 is still spreading across the globe, the U.S. unwarranted unilateral actions restrict the transportation of medical supplies and obstruct the sanctioned countries' effort to contain the virus and recover the economy, directly damaging the life and health of people in those countries as well as the rights of these people, especially the vulnerable groups.”

The spokesperson also pointed to the call of the UN secretary-general and the high commissioner for human rights who called for the elimination of unwarranted unilateral actions.

On October 5, China spoke on behalf of 26 countries to once again call for the immediate, total elimination of unilateral compulsory measures so that the international community can handle the virus in a comprehensive, effective, and efficient manner, according to Chunying.

During the October 9 press conference, Chunying urged the U.S. “to respond to the international voice of justice, stop erroneous actions at once, and return to the track of global solidarity and international cooperation as soon as possible.”

Despite U.S. sanctions, the coronavirus pandemic has accelerated the cooperation between Iran and China. Prior to Zarif’s visit to China, an assistant to the foreign minister said Iran has received medical aid from China and hopes that the two countries further cooperate on developing the Covid-19 vaccine.

The coronavirus crisis and the situation around the JCPOA were among issues that have been discussed during Zarif’s visit to China. But it seems that the main issue was the finalization of the strategic partnership plan. The assistant, Reza Zabib, said Zarif was going to discuss the plan.

On the other hand, China has expressed willingness to strengthen its strategic partnership with not only Iran but also with the United Arab Emirates, a move that highlights China’s growing influence in Western Asia.
As Zarif and Wang discussed the comprehensive strategic partnership between Iran and China, a “special representative” of President Xi Jinping delivered a message from the Chinese president to Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan “regarding the strengthening of the close ties of friendship and the comprehensive strategic partnership” between China and the UAE, according to Emirates News Agency (WAM).

The message was delivered by Yang Jiechi, the special representative of President Xi, at a meeting at Al Shati Palace on Saturday. The two officials discussed ways of enhancing friendship and comprehensive and special strategic cooperation between the two countries in addition to a number of regional and international issues of common concern, WAM reported.

China’s call for a regional dialogue seems to be in line with its plan to establish comprehensive strategic partnerships with Iran and the UAE. It could be indicative of China’s intention of resolving differences while finalizing the partnership plans with countries in the region. A resolution of conflicts in the region would lay the groundwork for deeper economic cooperation between China and the region’s countries.


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