Iran and China sign a landmark 25-year cooperation agreement

The deal is expected to increase bilateral trade and military cooperation as US rivals move to deepen ties

Photo: EPA Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (R) greets Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi after a document signing ceremony in Tehran, Iran

Foreign ministers from China and Iran, which are both subject to sanctions by the United States, have signed on Saturday a landmark 25-year cooperation agreement, AP and Reuters reported. The agreement is said to have been in the works since Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Iran in 2016, aiming to increase bilateral trade more than 10-fold to $600bn in the next decade.

"Relations between the two countries have now reached the level of strategic partnership and China seeks to comprehensively improve relations with Iran," China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi was quoted by Iran's state media as telling his Iranian counterpart, Mohammad Javad Zarif.

"Our relations with Iran will not be affected by the current situation, but will be permanent and strategic," Wang said ahead of the televised signing ceremony.

"Iran decides independently on its relations with other countries and is not like some countries that change their position with one phone call," he also stressed, referring to incumbent US President Joe Biden's efforts to revive talks with both countries despite the actions of his predecessor.

For his part, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said the agreement was a roadmap for trade, economic and transportation cooperation, with a special focus on the private sectors of the two sides.

Ahead of the signing of the agreement in Tehran, which was expected to also include Chinese investments in key sectors such as energy and infrastructure, Wang met President Hassan Rouhani. During their meeting, Rouhani voiced appreciation for Beijing's support within Tehran's 2015 nuclear deal with world powers and called for more coronavirus vaccine exports to Iran, the worst-hit country by the pandemic in the Middle East.

The official visit by Wang also marked the 50th year of diplomatic relations between the two Asian countries. 

"Cooperation between the two countries is very important for the implementation of the nuclear accord and the fulfilment of obligations by European countries," Rouhani said, according to his official website.

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