China calls for Iran sanctions to be lifted during Raisi’s visit

Beijing has condemned the punitive economic measures during a state visit by Iran’s Ebrahim Raisi, the first by an Iranian leader in decades.

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi stands next to Chinese President Xi Jinping during a welcoming ceremony in Beijing
Chinese President Xi Jinping rolled out the red carpet for the arrival of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi on Tuesday [Iran's President Website/WANA/Reuters]

China’s President Xi Jinping and his Iranian counterpart Ebrahim Raisi have called for the lifting of sanctions on Iran, as a three-day “fruitful” trip to China by the Iranian leader drew to a close.

Iran agreed with major world powers in 2015 to rein in its nuclear programme in return for the lifting of punishing sanctions, but then-President Donald Trump in 2018 pulled the United States out of the deal – known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) – and reinstated the economic measures.

Efforts to revive the agreement have stalled for months. The US and Israel have accused Iran of seeking to build nuclear weapons, a claim it denies.

Beijing and Tehran blamed the current tensions on Washington’s “unilateral withdrawal” from the deal.

“Both sides emphasised that lifting sanctions and ensuring Iran’s economic dividends are an important component of the agreement,” they said in the joint communique.

“All relevant sanctions should be fully abolished in a verifiable manner, promoting the agreement’s full and effective implementation.”

China also stated that it “firmly opposes interference by external forces in Iran’s internal affairs and undermining Iran’s security and stability.”

The two sides signed a number of bilateral cooperation documents in the fields of agriculture, trade, tourism, environmental protection, health, disaster relief, culture and sport.

Xi also “gladly accepted” an invitation from Raisi to visit Iran and would do so at his convenience, the joint statement said. Xi last visited Iran in 2016 as part of a tour of the Middle East.

First visit in more than 20 years

Beijing rolled out the red carpet for Raisi’s arrival on Tuesday, with the Iranian leader trailed by a large trade and finance delegation in the first such visit for at least 20 years.

Xi assured the Iranian leader that China would “participate constructively” in talks to resume negotiations on the JCPOA.

Xi later hailed China’s “solidarity and cooperation” with Iran “in the face of the current complex changes in the world, times, and history”, Chinese state broadcaster CCTV reported.

Beijing “supports Iran in safeguarding national sovereignty, independence, territorial integrity and national dignity … and in resisting unilateralism and hegemonism”, Xi said, according to CCTV.

Mending ties

Beijing and Tehran have strong economic ties and in 2021 signed a 25-year “strategic cooperation pact”.

But Iran was angered in December by a statement that China and Gulf states issued during a visit by Xi to Saudi Arabia.

The China-Gulf Cooperation Council called on Iran to cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and for a peaceful resolution to the issue of three islands ruled by Iran but claimed by the United Arab Emirates.

The Iranian foreign ministry summoned the Chinese ambassador to Iran in response and expressed its “strong dissatisfaction” over the statement.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies