China, which has been critical of Washington’s sanctions against Tehran, announced on Saturday the start of implementing a strategic agreement with Iran to boost economic and political cooperation between the two countries.
China and Iran signed the agreement in 2021, after years of negotiations, and the partnership aims to cover areas as diverse as energy, security, infrastructure and communications.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry said in a statement that Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and his Iranian counterpart Hossein Amir Abdollahian announced the signing of the agreement on Friday during a meeting in Wuxi, east China.
Few details of this secret deal were revealed, but the New York Times advanced in 2020, citing a draft document, that the agreement would guarantee China a stable supply of oil.
Beijing is one of Iran’s main trading partners and was one of the biggest buyers of oil before US President Donald Trump reimposed unilateral sanctions in 2018.
China has officially stopped importing oil from Iran, but analysts say Iranian oil continues to enter as materials officially imported from other countries.
On Friday, Wang said China would continue to “oppose illegal unilateral sanctions against Iran.”
Beijing has long sought to bolster ties with Tehran, with Chinese President Xi Jinping calling Iran “China’s main partner in the Middle East” during a rare visit to the country in 2016.
The two ministers’ meeting comes as negotiations continue in Vienna over a possible deal to end Tehran’s development of nuclear weapons.
The 2015 agreement — signed by Iran, the United States, China, Russia, the United Kingdom, France and Germany — lifted some sanctions against Tehran in exchange for curbs on Iran’s nuclear programme.
However, the United States unilaterally withdrew from the agreement in 2018, and reimposed severe sanctions, resulting in Tehran reneging on its commitments related to its nuclear program.
Negotiations to save the nuclear deal resumed in late November after a pause in June when Iran elected a new, ultra-conservative government.
China believes that the United States is responsible for the current status of the agreement, Minister Wang himself told his Iranian counterpart, according to the statement.
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