Middle East

China calls for new Mid-East forum, backs Iran

BEIJING • China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi has called for a new forum to defuse tensions in the Middle East after a meeting with his Iranian counterpart where he reiterated Beijing’s support for Teheran.

During their Saturday meeting in China’s south-western Tengchong city, Mr Wang and Mr Javid Zarif reaffirmed their commitment to Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, said the Chinese foreign ministry – an implicit rebuke of the United States for abandoning the accord.

Iran has been locked in an acrimonious relationship with Saudi Arabia, the other major Middle Eastern power, over the war in Yemen, Iranian influence in Iraq and Saudi support for US sanctions on Teheran.

“China proposes to build a regional multilateral dialogue platform with equal participation of all stakeholders,” said the Chinese foreign ministry statement. The forum would “enhance mutual understanding through dialogue and explore political and diplomatic solutions to security issues in the Middle East”, the statement added.

Mr Wang said support for the nuclear deal, negotiated by the Obama administration but abandoned by President Donald Trump, would be a precondition of entry to the forum.

Mr Zarif said on Twitter his “fruitful talks” with Mr Wang amounted to a rejection of “US unilateralism” and had also focused on strategic ties and collaboration on the development of a coronavirus vaccine.

The talks came shortly after the US last Thursday slapped fresh sanctions on Iran’s financial sector, targeting 18 banks in an effort to further choke off Iranian revenues as Washington ramps up pressure on Teheran ahead of the US election.

The US Treasury Department said in a statement the prohibitions did not apply to transactions to sell agricultural commodities, food, medicine or medical devices to Iran, saying it understood the need for humanitarian goods. However, Mr Zarif accused the US of targeting Iran’s ability to pay for basic necessities during the pandemic.

US presidential contender Joe Biden has said he would rejoin the Iranian nuclear deal if Iran first resumed compliance with it.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

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