Just two days after Russia scorned a proposal by the United States to impose new sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program, the Chinese premier declared on Thursday that Beijing will maintain its good relationship with Tehran.
The responses by China and Russia, two UN Security Council veto-wielding powers that are in the 5+1 group of countries currently negotiating with Iran, dashed the hopes of the United States and its French and British allies, which have been working hard to adopt a new Security Council resolution imposing new economic sanctions on Tehran.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov announced on Tuesday that threatening Iran with new sanctions would be “counterproductive” – especially since negotiators from Iran and the 5+1 group (France, the United States, Russia, China, Britain, and Germany) gathered in Geneva on October 1 to discuss Iran’s updated package of proposals.
The 5+1 group countries and Iran assessed the talks as positive, and the two sides have agreed to meet again by the end of October.
“All efforts should be focused on supporting the negotiating process,” Lavrov said in a joint press conference with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Moscow.
Clinton visited Moscow on Tuesday, her first trip to Russia since taking over as top diplomat, to assess Russia’s willingness to join the U.S. in imposing sanctions on Tehran.
“Threats, sanctions, and threats of pressure in the current situation, we are convinced, would be counterproductive,” Lavrov said as quoted by the New York Times.
After getting a cold response from Russia, Clinton claimed the United States did not make any specific requests of Russia at the meeting. However, a day earlier, a senior official traveling with her said Washington would be looking for “specific forms of pressure” that Russia would be prepared to back.
Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said Clinton is living in the past and advised her to drop the Bush era anti-Iran rhetoric.
The U.S. and a few of its European allies have been pressing Iran to freeze its uranium enrichment activities. However, Iran is a signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and insists that the only goal of its nuclear activities is the production of electricity to meet the nation’s growing demand.
The International Atomic Energy Agency is monitoring all the processes of Iran’s nuclear activities through cameras installed at the country’s nuclear facilities and regular inspections.
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said on Thursday that Beijing will maintain high-level contacts with Iran and seeks to foster “close coordination in international affairs” with Tehran, the Xinhua news agency reported.
“The Sino-Iran relationship has witnessed rapid development, as the two countries’ leaders have had frequent exchanges, and cooperation in trade and energy has widened,” Wen said in a meeting with Iranian First Vice President Mohammad Reza Rahimi.
Rahimi was in Beijing to attend the Shanghai Cooperation Organization’s prime ministerial meeting.
Wen said China wants “to maintain high-level contacts with Iran, encourage mutual understanding and confidence, (and) promote practical cooperation between the two sides and close coordination in international affairs.”
Wen also said China would continue to attempt to find a “peaceful solution” to the nuclear standoff between Iran and the West.
Dozens of Chinese firms operate in Iran, largely helping with infrastructure projects. Despite the sanctions already in place, two-way trade between China and Iran grew 35 percent last year, to $27 billion, according to irantracker.org.
China has also signed an estimated $120 billion worth of oil deals with Iran over the past five years.