Tehran, Iran – A 25-year comprehensive cooperation agreement signed between Iran and China last year has now entered the implementation stage, according to Iran’s foreign minister.
Hossein Amirabdollahian, in his first visit to China as foreign minister, announced the news late Friday after a meeting with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi.
“While preparing for the visit to China, we had made preparations to be able to mark today as the starting day of implementing the comprehensive agreement between the two countries,” Amirabdollahian said, but he did not announce any specific projects or agreements to mark the occasion.
Signed in Tehran in March 2021 when former President Hassan Rouhani was in office, the “strategic accord” entails economic, military and security cooperation, even as both countries are under different levels of United States sanctions.
Among other things, China has been purchasing Iranian oil – with a discount – in defiance of the sanctions over the past three years. Neither country discloses exact details.
During his visit, Amirabdollahian also delivered a letter by President Ebrahim Raisi for President Xi Jinping, which he said contained an “important message” for Raisi’s administration.
He did not elaborate on the contents, but the Raisi administration has repeatedly emphasised an “Asia-centric” foreign policy that includes China as an important factor.
Amirabdollahian’s visit came amid a flurry of meetings in Wuxi, Jiangsu. The foreign minister landed there shortly after China’s Yi held talks with the secretary general of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), and the foreign ministers of four of its member countries – Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman and Bahrain – in addition to the Turkish foreign minister.
Continuing talks in Vienna aimed at restoring Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers were also high on the agenda during the Iranian foreign minister’s visit.
After the meeting, Amirabollahian told reporters Iran is ready to achieve an agreement in the Austrian capital in the shortest time, a feat that will be made possible with the support of China and Russia.
A readout of the meeting published by Iran’s foreign ministry quoted Wang Yi as saying China supports Iran’s “logical” position in the Vienna talks.
“We hope that the Western parties also continue the negotiations in Vienna with a realistic view aimed at achieving an agreement that will also see the interests of the Iranian people secured,” he said.
The foreign minister criticised the Western parties – the US, France, Germany, and the United Kingdom – for what he called their lack of “initiative” in the talks.
“They say we’re worried and we’re in a hurry but their lack of practical initiative shows there is a contrast between their rhetoric and action,” he said.
The eighth – and presumably final – round of the intensive talks has been continuing in Vienna since last month as the Western parties warn mere weeks are left to reach an agreement because of Iran’s nuclear advancements.
The heads of the negotiating delegations agreed on Friday to head back to their capitals for two days for consultations, but the talks are not on pause as the expert working groups continue to hold sessions.
The US imposed its harsh sanctions on Iran from 2018 when it unilaterally abandoned the nuclear deal. Iran has since significantly ramped up its nuclear programme, but says it is strictly peaceful.