Strengthening relations

By Lu Wen'ao Source:Global Times Published: 2017/3/5 22:18:39

China, Iran continues to bond over joint initiatives

Ali Asghar Khaji, Iranian ambassador to China Photo: Li Hao/GT

Editor's Note:
With Iran about to step into the Iranian New Year on March 21, the Global Times reporter Lu Wen'ao (GT) spoke to Iranian Ambassador to China Ali Asghar Khaji (Khaji) in an exclusive interview about developments in the China-Iran partnership in 2016 and what joint efforts the two sides can make in 2017.

GT: The Sino-Iranian relationship received a big boost after President Xi Jinping's visit to Iran last year. What are your thoughts on the bilateral relations between the two countries?

Khaji: President Xi's visit to Iran is considered as a turning point in Sino-Iranian ties because the bilateral relations were promoted to the Strategic Comprehensive Partnership. As a result, 17 Cooperation documents were signed in different fields and some of those have been implemented. Moreover, last year we have witnessed bilateral exchanges of high-level delegations at ministerial and senior official levels.

With vast capacities of bilateral cooperation, the firm will of the two leaders, and the common stance on international and regional issues, we predict a positive landscape for promotion of the Sino-Iranian ties in future.

GT: Iran is an important partner for China in the "One Belt, One Road" initiative. With the Belt & Road summit scheduled in May in Beijing, what does Iran expect from it?

Khaji: OBOR Initiative is highly important for connectivity, development and cooperation among route countries.

In the history of the Silk Road, Iran was seen as the main East-West corridor and bridge between Europe and China. I believe that Iran can play an outstanding role in the progress of the "B&R" initiative objectives. During Xi's visit to Iran, MOU was signed on "B&R" initiative and with the participation of relevant organizations and a special committee was established to discuss the realization of agreements.

We take the May Summit into account as a moment for "B&R" initiative to designing a practical framework. Certainly Iran will have a high-level participation at the Summit.

GT: It's been a year since the implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), how has the implementation process been since then?

Khaji: The JCPOA is the symbol of diplomacy for peaceful settlement of a most sophisticated dispute in contemporary international relations. It has proven that Iran is looking for peaceful use of nuclear energy and recognized Iran as a member of NPT. Therefor it should enjoy its inherent rights of nuclear energy. According to IAEA, Iran has fulfilled all its commitments under JCPOA; therefore, Iran is expected from other sides to completely fulfill their commitments and quickly remove obstacles for full implementation of agreements.

China, as an effective member of P5+1, played a positive role over negotiations of JCPOA. Today, China has a good cooperation with Iran on the Arak Modernization Project as part of JCPOA. We hope to see China play a more constructive role in the implementation of JCPOA in future.

GT: After the implementation of JCPOA, many constrains on Iranian economy have been removed. Can we say now Iran is riding high after removing Western sanctions?

Khaji: After lifting of sanctions, Iran is going to restore everything back to normal. According to IMF, Iran's  economy growth has reached 6.7 in 2016.

In the sixth five years plan of Iran for economic and social development, it has envisioned vast development of infrastructure projects, expansion of industries such as oil, gas and petrochemical projects. Some are supposed to be financed by domestic investment while the door is open for foreign investors.

GT: Is China still Iran's No.1 trade partner? In what areas do you expect China to invest in Iran and can we see more improvement in trade between the two countries?

Khaji: Over the past years, China has been No.1 trade partner of Iran. In 2016, the total volume of trade between the two countries reached $ 31.2 billion. China is ranked first among Iran's oil consumers and Iran is the 6th oil suppliers to china. Chinese companies have had good investment in high-speed rail, oil and gas industry even in downstream industries in Iran. We have positive landscape for promotion of bilateral cooperation in finance and investment in the future.

GT: It seems the new US president is prejudiced against Iran's military drills. What's your opinion on this? Will Iran seek talks with Donald Trump?

Khaji: The new US president has challenging stances not only on Iran but also on its alliances. The past experience of Iran has shown that our nation will never retreat from its inherent rights and principal stances under pressures or bullying stance of any country. Iran always defends its inherent rights. It should be noted that Iran's defensive and limited military drills are very small in the number especially in comparison to other regional countries.

Imposing the new sanctions on Iran based on baseless claims is in violation of the spirit of JCPOA. The negotiation between the US and Iran was limited to nuclear issues. As long as the US pursues to impose its illegal demands by pressuring Iran, there would be no room for negotiation. Indeed, some specific mechanisms for organizing negotiations between Iran and P5+1 for implementation of the JCPOA, have been incorporated in which, we will comply to all the provisions of the agreement.

GT: Maintaining regional stability in the Middle East has become a thorny issue lately as there are wars in Syria and Iraq. What can we expect Iran to do in helping maintain peace in the region?

Khaji: Iran believes the security of the region is an interconnected process, so that nobody can provide security for itself at the expense of insecurity in other countries.

Today, terrorism has become an evil and very dangerous phenomenon over the region. We believe nobody can be secure from that, so restoring stability and security in the region and eradicating terrorism could be done only through international cooperation.

We are strongly opposed to implementing double standards of counterterrorism, and categorizing  good and bad terrorists. Disputes between countries should be solved through political negotiations and by means of peaceful settlement.

In the case of Syria, although we firmly believe in combating terrorists, we also believe that all disputes between the government and opponents should be solved by direct dialogue between the two sides. The principle of the policies of Iran in Syria is in political settlement, keeping territorial integrity and agreement of people and state government with no intervention from foreign countries.


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