Iran-China sign '25-year strategic cooperation pact'

WION Web Team
New DelhiUpdated: Mar 27, 2021, 10:33 PM IST

A handout picture provided by the Iranian presidency on March 27, 2021, shows president Hassan Rouhani (R) welcoming Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, at the presidential palace in the capital Tehran. Iran and China are to sign a 25-year cooperation agreement later today, Photograph:(AFP)

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The agreement, which has been kept almost entirely under wraps, was signed by the two countries' foreign ministers, Mohammad Javad Zarif and Wang Yi, an AFP correspondent reported.

In a major development, Iran and China have signed '25-year strategic cooperation pact'. This has brought the two US rivals closer to each other. It will be interesting to observe the ramifications of this move on the future of US-Iran nuclear deal.

An AFP correspondent reported that the deal was signed by Iran Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi. The pact was kept under wraps.

The pact, which was first proposed in January 2016, forms part of Beijing's trillion-dollar Belt and Road Initiative, a plan to fund infrastructure projects and increase its sway overseas that has been a flagship project for Chinese President Xi Jinping.

The pact is expected to include Chinese investment in Iran's energy and infrastructure sectors. China is Iran's long time ally. In 2016, China agreed to boost bilateral trade by more than ten times to $600 billion in the next decade.

"We believe this document can be very effective in deepening" Iran-China relations, Iran's foreign ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said, recalling that the pact had first been proposed during a visit to Tehran by Chinese President Xi Jinping in January 2016.

Xi and his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani agreed then to establish a roadmap for "reciprocal investments in the fields of transport, ports, energy, industry and services."

"Iran's government and people are striving as they always have to broaden relations with trustworthy, independent countries like China," supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said at the time, describing the proposed cooperation agreement as "correct and reasonable".

Xi has championed the Belt and Road Initiative, a plan to fund infrastructure projects and increase China's sway overseas.

'Nothing secret'

In July last year, controversy erupted over the proposed deal after former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad charged that negotiations were being held for a "new, 25-year agreement with a foreign country" without the knowledge of the Iranian people.

The foreign minister was heckled in parliament when he assured lawmakers there was "nothing secret" in the proposed deal, which he promised would be publicly announced "once it has been finalised".

The government has yet to honour that promise and few details have been made public.

Wang's visit to Tehran comes just days after he hosted Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov for talks in the Chinese city of Guilin.

The three governments all face difficult relations with Washington after President Joe Biden's administration vowed to remain firm in its dealings with them, despite a renewed emphasis on diplomacy.

China and Russia are both parties to the troubled 2015 nuclear accord with Iran that Biden has said he hopes to revive.

They were both deeply critical of the unilateral sanctions on Iran reimposed by Trump and have backed efforts to revive the agreement.

Biden has said he is not seeking "confrontation" with China, but that there will be intense competition between the rival superpowers.

"I told him (Xi) in person on several occasions we're not looking for confrontation, though we know that there will be steep, steep competition," the US president said.

(With AFP inputs)