China, Iran Meet to Preserve Nuke Deal 02/19 06:56
BEIJING (AP) -- The Iranian foreign minister's passionate defense of his
country's interests at the Munich Security Conference has made him "a famous
person" in China, his Chinese counterpart told him Tuesday, as the sides met
amid efforts to preserve the 2015 nuclear deal with Tehran.
Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif is leading an Iranian delegation to
Beijing that includes parliamentary speaker Ali Larijani and the ministers of
finance and petroleum, as well as the CEO of the country's central bank.
Germany, Britain, France, China, Russia and the European Union have been
trying to preserve the 2015 deal meant to keep Iran from obtaining nuclear
weapons in exchange for sanctions relief after the unilateral withdrawal of the
United States last year.
"Yesterday evening I saw on TV how you defended the rights of Iran loud and
clear at the Munich Security Conference," Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told
Zarif. "I think an audience of hundreds of millions of Chinese also watched
what you said and you are a famous person now."
A perception held by many Chinese that the U.S. seeks to contain their
nation's global rise generates sympathy among the public for Iran and other
countries, such as Venezuela, identified by Washington as hostile powers.
Zarif told the Munich conference on Sunday that a barter-type system known
as INSTEX set up last month by France, Germany and Britain to allow businesses
to skirt direct financial transactions with Iran, and thereby evade possible
U.S. sanctions, fell short of commitments to save the nuclear deal.
He addressed the conference a day after U.S. Vice President Mike Pence
prodded Germany, France and Britain to follow Washington in withdrawing from
the deal and to "stop undermining U.S. sanctions."
Wang made no direct comments on China's position on the deal in opening
remarks before reporters on Tuesday, but said he was "really delighted" to meet
with Zarif "given the major changes in the Middle East and the international
"I would like to take this opportunity to have this in-depth strategic
communication with my old friend to deepen the strategic trust between our two
countries and to ensure fresh progress of the bilateral comprehensive and
strategic partnership," Wang said.
Zarif responded by saying Iran's relationship with China "is very valuable
"We consider the comprehensive strategic partnership between Iran and China
as one of our most important relations," he said.
Prior to parliamentary speaker Larijani's departure from Tehran, China's
official Xinhua News Agency quoted him as saying that Iran and China have
"close and amicable" relations in diverse areas, and that both sides have
enjoyed the support of each other in the international arena.
Asked about China's position on the Iran deal and Washington's re-imposition
of sanctions, foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said China had made clear
"We have always opposed unilateral sanctions and long-arm jurisdiction,"
Geng said, referring to U.S. efforts to compel other countries to adhere to
measures it imposes outside the United Nations.
China has long sought to balance its relations in the Middle East between
rivals Iran and Saudi Arabia --- one of its chief suppliers of crude oil ---
whose de facto leader, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, is due to visit
Beijing on Thursday and Friday for meetings with President Xi Jinping and other
Iran is also an important source of crude imports to China, which has also
invested in manufacturing and other industries in Iran.
At the same time, China has sought to remain a friend to Israel --- which
Iran regards with hostility --- partly to avail itself of the country's
Yin Gang, a retired researcher formerly with the Chinese Academy of Social
Sciences, said China was feeling a greater sense of urgency and may press Iran
to take a "practical attitude" in light of U.S. concerns over its missile
program, support for Syria's embattled leader and other U.S. concerns.
The Saudi crown prince's visit imposes pressure from the opposite direction,
however, Yin said.
"For many years, Saudi Arabia has expressed its hopes that China not do
anything to block sanctioning Iran," Yin said.