China, Iran discuss nuclear deal ahead of MbS visit

China, Iran discuss nuclear deal ahead of MbS visit
China and Iran's foreign ministers met in Beijing on Tuesday to discuss the 2015 nuclear deal and the countries' shared interests, which may clash with an upcoming meeting with MbS.
2 min read
19 February, 2019
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman will also visit Beijing this week [Pool/Getty]

Iranian and Chinese officials met in Beijing on Tuesday to discuss preserving the 2015 nuclear deal ahead of a visit by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, whose kingdom is rival of Tehran.

"I saw on TV how you defended the rights of Iran loud and clear at the Munich Security Conference," Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told his counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif, who travelled to Beijing with a delegation which includes Iran's parliamentary speaker, its ministers of finance and petroleum, and the head of its central bank.

"I think an audience of hundreds of millions of Chinese also watched what you said and you are a famous person now," remarked Wang.

Zarif warned the conference on Sunday that a barter-type system known as INSTEX set up in January by France, Germany and Britain to allow businesses to skirt direct financial transactions with Iran, evading possible US sanctions, did not meet those countries' commitments to save the nuclear deal.

Iran and China's meeting in Beijing signals major efforts by both countries to preserve their shared interests, including the 2015 nuclear deal from which the United States unilaterally withdrew last year, AP reported.

Many Chinese sympathise with Iran, as they view the US as trying to contain the power and influence of both their own nation and Iran.

"I would like to take this opportunity to have this in-depth strategic communication with my old friend to deepen the strategic trust between our two countries and to ensure fresh progress of the bilateral comprehensive and strategic partnership," Wang said.

Zarif added: "We consider the comprehensive strategic partnership between Iran and China as one of our most important relations."

Beijing's foreign minister has not made any direct comments about the deal, but a foreign ministry spokesman said China disapproved of Washington's withdrawal and re-imposition of sanctions.

"We have always opposed unilateral sanctions and long-arm jurisdiction," Geng Shuang said.

China has long sought balanced relations with regional rivals Iran and Saudi Arabia, both key suppliers of crude oil to the country. Support for Iran against US sanctions may prove to be a sticking point in future discussions with Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman will meet with President Xi Jinping and other officials in Beijing on Thursday and Friday. It is not clear whether relations with Iran will be on the agenda.