China denounces US sanctions on Iran as sweeping strategic deal is launched

China said on Saturday it would start implementing a strategic deal with Iran, boosting economic and political cooperation between the two countries as Beijing blasted Washington’s sanctions on Tehran.

China and Iran signed the agreement last year after years of talks, with the far-reaching partnership expected to cover areas including energy, security, infrastructure and communications.

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Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and his Iranian counterpart Hossein Amir-Abdollahian announced the start of the implementation of the partnership during a meeting Friday in Wuxi (east China), said the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs. in a press release.

Few details of the secret deal have been released, but The New York Times reported in 2020 that it would secure a steady oil supply for China, citing a draft deal leaked to the newspaper.

China is Iran’s biggest trading partner and was one of the country’s biggest oil buyers before then-US President Donald Trump reimposed sweeping unilateral sanctions in 2018.

China has officially stopped importing oil from Iran, but analysts say Iranian crude continues to enter the country disguised as imports from other countries.

Wang told his Iranian counterpart on Friday that China would continue to “oppose illegal unilateral sanctions against Iran,” the foreign ministry said.

Beijing has long sought to strengthen ties with Tehran, with Chinese President Xi Jinping describing Iran as “China’s main partner in the Middle East” during a rare visit to the country in 2016.

The meeting between Wang and Amir-Abdollahian comes as talks continue in Vienna on a potential deal to halt Tehran’s development of nuclear weapons.

A 2015 deal – reached by Iran, the United States, China, Russia, Britain, France and Germany – offered sanctions relief to Tehran in return for curbs on its nuclear program.

But the United States pulled out of the deal in 2018, reimposing biting sanctions and prompting Tehran to start backtracking on its commitments.

Talks to salvage the nuclear deal began in late November, after stalling when Iran elected a new ultra-conservative government in June.

Wang told his Iranian counterpart on Friday that China believed the United States was responsible for the current status of the deal, the Foreign Ministry said in its statement.

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