Dubai: The president of China ‘Xi Jinping’ is the first leader to visit Iran since international sanctions on the Islamic Republic were lifted on January 16 after it struck a deal with six major powers to limit its nuclear program. China was one of the six. On Saturday, China and Iran agreed to expand bilateral ties to form a comprehensive strategic partnership, President Hassan Rouhani and visiting Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping said, calling it a “new season” in bilateral relations.
Jinping is the second leader of a U.N. Security Council member to visit Tehran after the nuclear deal Iran struck with world powers last year. Russian President Vladimir Putin visited Tehran in November. Iran emerged from years of economic isolation this month when the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog ruled it had curbed its nuclear programme, clearing the way for the lifting of U.N., U.S., and European Union sanctions.
Rouhani said at a news conference with Xi broadcast live on state television, “Iran and China have agreed to increase trade to $600 billion in the next 10 years”. He said, “Iran and China have agreed on forming strategic relations (as) reflected in a 25-year comprehensive document”. Iran and China signed 17 accords on Saturday, including on cooperation in nuclear energy and a revival of the ancient Silk Road trade route, known in China as One Belt, One Road.
Ellie Geranmayeh, policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations said, “China is still heavily dependent on Iran for its energy imports and Russia needs Iran in terms of its new security architecture vision for the Middle East”. He added, “Iran plays quite an integral role for both China and Russia’s interests within the region, much more than it does for the Europeans”.