Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has urged “friends”, including China and Russia, to take “concrete action” to safeguard the 2015 nuclear deal after the United States withdrew from the agreement.
On a visit to Beijing, Zarif said he would also talk to Chinese officials about “bilateral ties and the very dangerous issues that are ongoing in our region today”, according to a video published on the Iranian Foreign Ministry website on Friday.
Last week, Zarif had said only Russia and China supported Iran and helped it keep the nuclear deal going, and accused other parties to the agreement of letting Tehran down.
China was one of the eight global buyers – India, Turkey, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Italy and Greece being the other nations – that was allowed to import Iranian crude oil before the US ended waivers earlier this month.
Al Jazeera correspondent Adrian Brown, reporting from Beijing, said Iran still believed China, its biggest customer for crude oil, has an enormous amount of influence to wield to salvage the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in which it had played a key role in the talks before the agreement.
“Iran doesn’t want to be seen as deserting a strong trading partner but at the same time China is in this difficult position,” said Brown.
“It doesn’t want to further inflame trade tensions with the US.
“There’s also a feeling that perhaps Chinese leaders feel they have nothing to lose by declaring their support for Iran,” he added. “And perhaps, given the growing anti-Trump sentiment in Tehran, that could actually work in China’s favour.”
Concrete actions over statements
The landmark 2015 deal between Iran and world powers, including the European Union and the US, offered sanctions relief to Iran for scaling back its nuclear programme.
“If the international community and other JCPOA [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action] member countries, and our friends in the JCPOA like China and Russia, want to keep this achievement, it is required that they make sure the Iranian people enjoy the benefits of the JCPOA with concrete actions,” Zarif said.
“So far, the international community has mainly made statements instead of saving the deal,” he continued, according to a report by the state-run IRNA news agency. “The practical step is quite clear: Economic relations with Iran should be normalised. This is what the deal clearly addresses.”
Upholding deal is ‘shared responsibility’
Amid rising tensions in the Gulf, Iran on Thursday rejected negotiations with the US and said it was showing “maximum restraint” after Washington sent extra military forces to the region against what it claimed was an imminent threat from Tehran.
But Trump took a soft tone on the same day, after tweeting that he expected Iran to look for talks. Asked if the US might be on a path to war with the Iranians, the president answered: “I hope not.”
Iranian officials remain sceptical.
Imposing sanctions while seeking talks is like “pointing a gun at someone and demanding friendship”, said Iranian General Rasool Sanaeirad, according to the semi-official Mehr news agency.
Zarif’s China trip comes after visits to Turkmenistan, India and Japan in the past week.
Despite Washington’s campaign of “maximum pressure” against Iran, the country has vowed to keep selling oil to its main customers, especially China, even if it takes using indirect means.
On May 8, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Iran would stop observing restrictions on stocks of enriched uranium and heavy water agreed under the nuclear deal in retaliation for the US withdrawal and the reimposition of sanctions.
In his announcement, Rouhani threatened to go further if the European members of the deal failed to start delivering on their promises to help Iran circumvent US sanctions within 60 days.
In response, China called on all parties to uphold the nuclear deal in what it called a “shared responsibility”.