China has repeated its opposition to U.S. sanctions against Iran while announcing that Beijing and Tehran have launched a 25-year cooperation deal aimed at bolstering economic and political ties.
In a meeting on January 14 in the city of Wuxi, in Jiangsu Province, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi also backed efforts to revive a 2015 nuclear deal between major powers and Iran.
A summary of the meeting between Wang and Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian was posted on China's Foreign Ministry website on January 15.
Wang said the United States was primarily to blame for the ongoing difficulties with Tehran, having unilaterally withdrawn from a 2015 nuclear deal between the major powers and Iran.
Under the terms of that deal, Iran agreed to curb its nuclear program in return for the lifting of international sanctions.
The United States reimposed sanctions that badly damaged Iran's economy after withdrawing from the nuclear pact in 2018, saying the terms did not do enough to curb Iran's nuclear activities, ballistic-missile program, and regional influence.
A year later, Iran began to gradually breach the accord, rebuilding stockpiles of enriched uranium, refining it to higher fissile purity, and installing advanced centrifuges to speed up output.
China and Iran, both subject to U.S. sanctions, signed the 25-year cooperation agreement in March 2021, bringing Iran into China's Belt and Road Initiative, a multi-trillion-dollar infrastructure scheme intended to stretch from East Asia to Europe.
The project aims to significantly expand China's economic and political influence and has raised concerns in the United States and elsewhere.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry summary said the agreement would deepen Sino-Iranian cooperation in areas including energy, infrastructure, agriculture, health care, and culture, as well as cybersecurity and cooperation with other countries.
The announcement of the implementation of the pact comes as talks continue in Vienna on reviving the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.
A source close to the negotiations said on January 14 that many issues in several areas remain unresolved in indirect talks between Iran and the United States.
"In every single part of the [unfinished] paper [outlining a deal], there are issues that are still under consideration," the source told reporters, adding that while negotiations are moving in the right direction, they "do not have all the time in the world.”