Iran and China want to sign a comprehensive and long-term cooperation agreement on Saturday. The 25-year agreement contains “political, strategic and economic” agreements, the Iranian Foreign Ministry announced. The agreement is to be signed on the occasion of the current visit of Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi to Tehran. For China, the agreement is part of its ambitious new Silk Road initiative.
Tehran believes that the agreement could “very effectively contribute to deepening Sino-Iranian relations,” said Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh. He recalled the visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping to Tehran five years ago, during which the foundation stone for the comprehensive cooperation agreement was laid.
At that time, Xi and his Iranian colleague Hassan Rouhani decided to strengthen bilateral relations between their countries and agreed, among other things, to intensify cooperation in the areas of transport, ports, energy, industry and services. The spiritual leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, described the cooperation with China as “right and sensible” at the time.
Last year, however, the planned cooperation sparked controversy in the Iranian parliament after ex-President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad accused the government of negotiating a “new 25-year agreement with a foreign country” without informing the Iranian people .
Many MPs reacted angrily to a speech by Zarif in parliament in July. The foreign minister tried to appease the parliamentarians by assuring that the proposed cooperation agreement contained “no secret” agreements and that the public would be informed of its exact content as soon as the negotiations were concluded. Despite this promise, only a few details from the agreement have been communicated so far.
For China, the agreement with Tehran is part of its ambitious One Belt, One Road initiative, which ties in with the historic trade routes of the Silk Road. China is already Iran’s most important trading partner. Before the US unilaterally withdrew from the international nuclear agreement with Iran under then-President Donald Trump in 2018 and imposed new sanctions on the country, China was the world’s largest buyer of Iranian oil.