China, through a $ 400 billion deal with Iran, can increase its influence in the Middle East


China has agreed to invest $ 400 billion in Iran over 25 years in exchange for steady supplies of oil to fuel its growing economy under a comprehensive economic and security agreement signed on Saturday.

The deal could deepen China’s influence in the Middle East and undermine U.S. efforts to keep Iran isolated. But it was not immediately clear to what extent the agreement could be implemented during the end of the international dispute Iran’s nuclear program Still unsolved.

President Biden I offered to resume negotiations with Iran On the 2015 nuclear deal that his predecessor, President Trump, canceled three years after it was signed. But he says Iran must first stick to the terms of the agreement.

Iran refused to do so, and China supported it, Demanding The United States is acting first to revive the bargain it created by lifting the unilateral sanctions that have stifled the Iranian economy. China was one of five world powers that, along with the United States, signed the 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran.

The two countries’ foreign ministers, Javad Zarif and Wang Yi, signed the agreement during a ceremony held at the Foreign Ministry in Tehran on Saturday, according to the semi-official Iranian news agency Fars. This culminated in Mr. Wang’s two-day visit, which reflected China’s growing ambition to play a bigger role in a region that has been a concern of the United States for decades.

A spokeswoman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry said: “In order for the region to emerge from chaos and enjoy stability, it must be freed from the shadows of geopolitical competition between great powers, remain immune to external pressure and interference, and explore development paths appropriate to its regional realities.” Hua Chunying said on Friday. “You must build a security architecture that accommodates the legitimate interests of all parties.”

Iran did not announce the details of the agreement before the signing. But experts said it was largely unchanged from 18 pages The New York Times got the draft last year.

The draft details $ 400 billion in Chinese investment in dozens of areas, including banking, telecommunications, ports, railways, health care and information technology, over the next 25 years. In return, China would get regular – and according to an Iranian official and oil trader, deeply discounted – supplies of Iranian oil.

The draft also called for deepening military cooperation, including joint exercises, joint research, weapons development, and intelligence information sharing.

Iranian officials promoted the pact with Beijing – which was first proposed by China’s leader, Xi Jinping, during 2016 visit – as a breakthrough. But it has met with criticism within Iran that the government can do a lot for China.

Hosam Eddin Ashina, a senior adviser to President Hassan Rouhani, described the deal as an “example of successful diplomacy” on Twitter, saying it was a sign of Iran’s strength “to participate in alliances, not to remain in isolation.” He described it as “an important decree for long-term cooperation after long negotiations and joint action.”

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh described the document as a “complete road map” for relations for the next quarter of the century.

Mr. Wang has already visited Iran’s arch-foe, Saudi Arabia, as well as Turkey, and is scheduled to travel to the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Oman in the coming days. He said the region is at a crossroads and has offered to assist China in resolving ongoing disputes, including over Iran’s nuclear program.

China is even ready to host direct talks between the Israelis and the Palestinians, in a hint that the American hegemony in the region has impeded peace and development.

In Iran, opinions about China’s growing influence have mixed.

After Mr. Xi first proposed the strategic agreement during his visit in 2016, negotiations to complete it proceeded slowly at first. Iran had just reached its agreement with the United States and other countries to ease economic sanctions in exchange for strict restrictions on its nuclear research activities, and European companies began pouring into Iran with investments and offers for joint partnerships to develop gas and oil fields.

Those opportunities evaporated after Mr Trump withdrew the United States from the deal and imposed new sanctions that Europeans feared could get in on them, forcing Iran to look east.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s Supreme Leader, has ordered to revive talks with China, and has appointed a trusted conservative politician and former speaker of parliament, Ali Larijani, as a special envoy.

Critics complained about the negotiations ’lack of transparency and described the deal as a sale of Iran’s resources, comparing it to the unilateral agreements China concluded with countries. Like Sri Lanka.

Supporters of the deal said Iran should be pragmatic and acknowledge China’s growing economic prominence.

“For a very long time in our strategic alliances, we put all of our eggs in the West’s basket, and they did not produce results,” said Ali Shariati, an economic analyst who until recently was a member of the Iranian Chamber of Commerce. “Now, if we changed politics and looked east, it wouldn’t be that bad.”

It remains to be seen how many ambitious projects detailed in the agreement will materialize. If the nuclear deal collapses completely, Chinese companies may also face secondary sanctions from Washington, an issue that has angered China in the past.

Includes the US pursuit of Chinese telecom giant Huawei Charges The company was secretly trading with Iran in violation of those sanctions.

Ms. Hua, a spokeswoman for the Foreign Ministry in Beijing, stressed that both countries need to take steps to resolve the nuclear dispute.

“The urgent task is for the United States to take substantive measures to lift unilateral sanctions on Iran and long-term jurisdiction over third parties, and for Iran to resume mutual compliance with its nuclear obligations in an effort to achieve an early harvest,” she said.

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