Iran welcomes China’s contribution to regional peace

By Zhang Xin Source:Global Times Published: 2018/3/4 21:53:39

Editor's Note:

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei recently said that a preference for the East over the West is a priority for Iran's foreign policy. Some Western media took such diplomatic shift as Iran's efforts to develop closer ties with China and Russia while its patience runs out with trying to improve ties with the West.

In the last few months, the US has threatened to scrap the 2015 Iran nuclear accord, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). China and Russia have reaffirmed their support for the deal. Recently, an EU official also said the bloc's stance on the deal is closer to the positions of Russia and China than that of the US.

Global Times reporter Zhang Xin (GT) interviewed Iranian Ambassador to China Ali Asghar Khaji (Khaji) to talk about Iran's latest foreign policy, its stance on the JCPOA, and its prospects of cooperating with China under the framework of the Belt and Road (B&R) initiative.

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

GT: What's your take on the Supreme Leader's recent declaration on Iran's foreign policy?

Iran has suffered severely from the antagonistic approach of the West during its historical ties in the forms of exploitation and violation of the right to self-determination via a coup d'état, supporting the repressive dictator of the Pahlavi regime, etc. After the victory of the Revolution of Iran in 1979, the West, with the leadership of the US, kept the same approach but in new ways by imposing eight years of war on Iran, organizing the abortive coup d'état, imposing unfair and crippling economic sanctions, fettering the scientific and technological progress of Iranian youths. The West's hostile treatments of Iran have been embedded in Iranians' memories, so that led them to view the West through this window.

On the other side, the Iranian nation has not experienced said approach from the East. Rather, they have founded various common viewpoints on the most important international issues. We have numerous common points with Russia and China, as the two major powers of the East, over international and regional matters such as international peace and stability, multilateralism, counter-terrorism and so on. It was an imperative necessity for us to cooperate closely together and increasingly promote bilateral relations, so much so that we founded with China the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership in 2016. China has been our friend during the hard time of eight years of imposed war and unfair sanctions and has stood with the Iranian nation. We firmly believe that the East can contribute constructively to the establishment of peaceful and stable international relations under multilateralism.     

 GT: What do you think it means when the US, on the one hand, unilaterally tears up the JCPOA, and on the other hand, expands its own nuclear weapons capabilities as stated in its newly released policy plan?

The US always takes advantage of its double standard policies, a continuous behavior in its international relations, causing America to become an unreliable side for cooperation. The JCPOA [issue] is the best case to prove this claim. It is an international document that was adopted by Resolution 2231 of the UN Security Council. The International Atomic Energy Agency has approved 10 times the compliance of Iran with the commitments under the JCPOA. But unfortunately, the US administration, under its baseless and illegal pretexts - which are null and void in nature and principally violations of the JCPOA's spirit and provisions - has breached repeatedly its JCPOA commitments. Certainly, this irresponsible behavior of the US will increase the distrust in America and isolate it more and more.

The matter of fact is that, while the US raises its baseless accusations against Iran for its peaceful nuclear activities, it is contradicting itself by putting forward an agenda for development amid promoting its own nuclear weapons capacities. It will jeopardize peace, stability and international security and will turn on a new round of arms races among nations. Obviously, the double standard policy highlights the US' behavior in international relations, especially with the way it treats Iran.

GT: Iran plays an important role strategically in the China-proposed B&R initiative. Can you talk about the highlights achieved so far as a result of Sino-Iranian bilateral cooperation under the B&R framework?

Along the historical Silk Road, Iran was considered a "global bridge for the connection of the East and the West." Today, on the farms of international transportation corridors such as Transport Corridor Europe-Caucasus-Asia, Iran can play a cooperative role for the connectivity of China with Central Asia, Caucasus, the Middle East and Europe. For the joint building of the 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road, Iran takes advantage of very important seaports such as Chabahar. We have defined various projects in different fields for cooperation and we are ready to [further] cooperate with China for the implementation of Chabahar projects. Iran is a country rich in oil and gas and China could take that into account for [the purpose of] securing its energy demand in industrialization processes.

From the beginning, Iran has welcomed positively and warmly the B&R initiative. During the historical visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to Iran in 2016, a cooperative document was signed by the two countries on jointly building the B&R initiative, which is a blueprint for bilateral cooperation. And now, considerable progress has been reached for the realization of B&R initiative projects. Iran strongly attaches importance to B&R initiative cooperation because we look at it as a practical platform, not only for bilateral benefits, but also for the development and progress of all countries in the region.  

GT: China is Iran's biggest trading partner. China's investment in Iran has also seen a rise. In what ways do you think the economic ties with China boost Iranian growth?

: Over the past years, China has been placed as the first trade partner of Iran, which is rooted in the complementary features of the two economies. China is the biggest consumer of energy in the world while Iran has rich oil and gas resources. Therefore, energy supply and security can play an increasingly constructive role in the bilateral relations. Additionally, China is a developed country in [terms of] industry, technology and innovation, which can be regarded as a valuable base to accelerate bilateral cooperation.

The attraction of foreign investment and finance has been considered highly in the sixth development program of Iran, so under the current project-oriented cooperation, the promotion of bilateral relations in the field of finance and investment will support development and progress in Iran. On the other side, China also will be in an advantageous position for the promotion of bilateral relations with Iran as a stable and reliable partner in the strategic region of the Middle East. 

GT: China has a growing presence in Middle East affairs. How do you evaluate its influence in the region?

Throughout history, the Middle East, for its crucial and strategic situations, has been the source of conflict or cooperation among great powers. Unfortunately, because of wrong US policies on the Middle East, this region has fallen into internal combats, extremism, terrorism, state collapses and security problems, which undoubtedly affects the world's security. 

Regional policy of the Islamic Republic of Iran is based on providing internal and collective security in the Middle East. As recently pointed out by Dr. Zarif, the esteemed Minister of Foreign Affairs of Iran, "a secure and strong Middle East is the priority of Iran." That was why we initiated the comprehensive regional dialogue mechanism for security architecture in the region. We believe that insecurity is the cradle of terrorism and extremism, and as long as there is insecurity in the Middle East, no country would enjoy development, progress and prosperity.

We believe strongly that China, under its Middle East policies, can play a critical role by cooperating with Iran and other regional powers for the implementation of peace, stability and security in this region. We always welcome China's contribution in this regard.

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