It’s a historic deal: Iran and China have signed a joint agreement. This is supposed to be valid for 25 years and includes both political and economic agreements.
Iran and China signed a 25-year cooperation agreement in Tehran. According to the state television, the so-called comprehensive cooperation agreement was signed by the foreign ministers of both countries, Wang Yi and Mohammed Jawad Sarif, on Saturday. This clears the way for China to invest billions. In return, Iran wants to deliver oil at low prices. Cooperation in the military field is also planned.
President Hassan Ruhani described cooperation with China as strategic. “We want China as a major trading partner of Iran,” said Ruhani, according to the web portal of the presidential office, in his meeting with Wang Yi on Saturday. Ruhani had previously classified the agreement as a strategically important project for economic growth in Iran as well as stability and peace in the region.
Due to the sanctions imposed by the USA in 2018, Iran is in an acute economic crisis that has been exacerbated by the corona pandemic. Since the new US President Joe Biden does not want to lift the sanctions in the short term, the government is orienting itself more towards China and Russia.
“Effective for deepening relationships”
The agreement is not well received by the population. After the 2015 Vienna nuclear deal, the Iranians had hoped for more cooperation with the West. Chinese goods are not very popular in the country’s markets.
Tehran believes that the agreement could “very effectively contribute to deepening Sino-Iranian relations,” said Chatibsadeh. The spokesman recalled the visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to Tehran five years ago, during which the foundation stone for the comprehensive cooperation agreement was laid.
At that time, Xi and his Iranian colleague Hassan Ruhani decided to strengthen bilateral relations between their countries and agreed, among other things, to intensify cooperation in the areas of transport, ports, energy, industry and services. The spiritual leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, described the cooperation with China as “right and sensible” at the time.
Last year, however, the planned cooperation sparked controversy in the Iranian parliament after ex-President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad accused the government of negotiating a “new 25-year agreement with a foreign country” without informing the Iranian people .
Agreement should not contain any “secret” agreements
Many MPs reacted angrily to a speech by Sarif in parliament in July. The foreign minister tried to appease the parliamentarians by assuring that the proposed cooperation agreement contained “no secret” agreements and that the public would be informed of its exact content once the negotiations were concluded. Despite this promise, only a few details from the agreement have been communicated so far.
For China, the agreement with Tehran is part of its ambitious One Belt, One Road initiative, which ties in with the historic trade routes of the Silk Road. China is already Iran’s most important trading partner. Before the US unilaterally withdrew from the international nuclear agreement with Iran under then-President Donald Trump in 2018 and imposed new sanctions on the country, China was the world’s largest buyer of Iranian oil.
Russia’s relationship with Washington is strained
Wang’s visit to Tehran came a few days after receiving his Russian colleague Sergei Lavrov in the southern Chinese city of Guilin. Russian relations with Washington are also extremely tense at the moment; In the dispute over statements by the new US President Joe Biden, the Kremlin called its ambassador to the US back to Moscow for consultations last week in an extremely rare step.
Like China, Russia is also a party to the international nuclear agreement with Tehran. Both countries had condemned the US withdrawal from the agreement and the new sanctions against Iran.
Biden has announced his willingness to lead the US back into the nuclear deal. The Democrat also takes a tough stance towards China. Biden said he personally told President Xi that the US did not want a “confrontation” with Beijing. “But we know there will be deep, deep competition.”