China: Confrontation Not the Answer to Iran's Nuclear Issue

Confrontation is not the solution to the nuclear issue in Iran, said China's Permanent Representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Li Sung

by Sededin Dedovic
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China: Confrontation Not the Answer to Iran's Nuclear Issue
© Michael Gruber / Getty Images

Confrontation is not the solution to the nuclear issue in Iran, said China's Permanent Representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Li Sung. Li made the statement after the IAEA's Board of Governors yesterday voted on a resolution putting pressure on Iran regarding the nuclear issue, according to the China Media Group (CMG).

The resolution was proposed by France, the United Kingdom, and Germany. Among the 35 member countries of the Board of Governors, China and Russia voted against the resolution, while 12 developing countries, including South Africa, India, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, and Turkey, abstained.

Li emphasized that IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi had a successful visit to Iran in early May and maintained constructive contacts with the Iranian side, and both sides are committed to the regular progress of the IAEA's work on safeguards in Iran.

In the context of the recent death of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and the presidential elections scheduled to be held later this month, Li highlighted that the actions of certain countries to provoke confrontation for political purposes are "nonconstructive for a political solution to the Iranian nuclear issue." "Facts have repeatedly shown that creating confrontation and exerting pressure will not solve the Iranian nuclear issue, but will undermine cooperation between the IAEA and Iran and further complicate the issue," Li said.

The Chinese representative further stressed that the 2015 agreement, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), is the only correct path to resolve the issue. "The United States, as an underminer of the JCPOA agreement, should fully demonstrate its sincerity and work together with all parties to restore the complete and effective implementation of the JCPOA," Li said.

He added that China calls on all parties to approach the current situation with calmness and responsibility, to take concrete actions to support the strengthening of cooperation between the IAEA and Iran, and to provide conditions for political and diplomatic efforts to resolve the Iranian nuclear issue to return to the right track.

China has intensified its cooperation with Iran in recent years

Chinese investments in Iran increased tenfold in 2023, according to the deputy minister of economy and finance, as reported by the Tasnim news agency. Chinese investments reached three billion dollars last year, ten times higher than the previous year, said the deputy minister of economy and president of the Organization for Foreign Investment, Ali Fekri, according to Tasnim's report.

Chinese capital has mainly been directed towards projects in logistics, infrastructure, and mining, the report stated. Iran is under US and EU sanctions due to its nuclear program development, which Tehran insists is for civilian purposes.

Chinas Foreign Minister Wang Yi shakes hands with Irans Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif during a meeting at the Diaoyutai © Pool / Getty Images

China is an important economic partner for Tehran and a major buyer of Iranian oil.

The two countries signed a 25-year cooperation agreement in 2021, noted the German news agency dpa. Since President Ebrahim Raisi took office in August 2021, Iran has attracted $10.6 billion in foreign capital, according to an official from the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Finance.

During this period, most of the capital was invested by Russia, with significant investors including China, the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, Iraq, and India, said the Iranian official. Developing and deepening relations with neighboring countries are the government's main strategy, Fekri emphasized.

In 2022, according to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), foreign direct investment in Iran reached a value of $1.5 billion. Iran has been under immense pressure from the US since former President Donald Trump withdrew from the JCPOA in 2018 and reintroduced economic sanctions.

These sanctions have made it difficult for Iran to access international markets, resulting in a recession, skyrocketing inflation, and significant devaluation of the Iranian rial. China stepped in, injecting much-needed capital and expertise into the Iranian economy.

These capital inflows have spurred economic activity, created jobs, mitigated the impact of sanctions, and continued the development of Iranian infrastructure. The Iranian government uses this Chinese engagement to show its population that the state is not diplomatically isolated, thus soothing domestic concerns and maintaining the semblance of legitimacy.

China and Iran have also intensified military cooperation. Both countries signed a military cooperation agreement in 2021 and conducted joint naval exercises in the Gulf of Oman, marking significant progress in military cooperation.

Chinese military expertise has played a role in Iran's hypersonic missile program, much to the chagrin of the US. However, the sale of advanced equipment such as "invisible" fighters is unlikely. China's significant ties with Saudi Arabia and the UAE could influence its strategic considerations. Beijing will deepen ties with Tehran, but not at the expense of relations with the Saudis and Emiratis.

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