China’s leader seeks ‘new chapter’ in ties with Iran
Chinese President Xi Jinping, the first head of state visiting Iran since sanctions were lifted on Tehran, is poised to sign letters of intent with the Islamic Republic for a new chapter in strategic economic cooperation.
Xi, who arrived in Tehran on Friday night, was officially welcomed by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Saturday.
The Chinese leader, who made great contribution to the signature of Iran’s landmark deal with world powers last July, hopes to further boost his country’s traditional friendship and economic engagement with Iran.
China, a top oil consumer, has been a top buyer of Iran’s crude. Even after international sanctions targeted Tehran’s energy sector, China continued its cooperation with Iran by purchasing oil and developing energy projects.
Upon arrival in Tehran, Xi said that Iran and China, whose friendship dates back to 2,000 years ago, have made important contribution to human progress.
He said establishment of political relations between Iran and China has resulted in important achievements in the political, economic and cultural sectors.
Iran and China signed 17 documents for cooperation in economic, industrial, cultural and judicial fields in the presence of the two countries’ presidents.
The documents included one signed between Iranian and Chinese nuclear chiefs for peaceful energy cooperation.
Others involved documents for environmental cooperation, financing of a bullet train railway and banking cooperation.
The Chinese president’s trip to Tehran is the last leg of his three-nation tour which has also taken him to Saudi Arabia and Egypt.
The value of trade transactions between Tehran and Beijing stood at some $52 billion in 2014. However, the figure dropped in 2015 due to decreasing oil prices.
Xi said, “In cooperation with the Iranian side and by benefiting from the current favorable conditions, China is ready to upgrade the level of bilateral relations and cooperation so that a new chapter will start in bilateral relations in the long term.”
He noted that the two countries have been on the same wavelength with regard to regional and international affairs.
During his visit, Xi is scheduled to hold talks with Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei.
China remains Iran’s top trade partner. According to China’s Commerce Department, during the first 11 months of 2015, China imported 24.36 million tons of crude oil from Iran, or 8 percent of its total imports.
China’s oil companies have also been increasing investment in oil projects overseas.
The North Azadegan Oil Field, located along Iran-Iraq border, is one example of cooperation projects led by China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC).
Following the recent removal of sanctions, Iran is once again open to global business, which makes the market more competitive as many global companies are already moving to resume trade with Iran.