May 17, 2019 / 2:20 PM / 7 months ago

China backs Iran during U.S. tensions

BEIJING (Reuters) - China offered strong support to Iran on Friday, with its top diplomat telling Iran’s foreign minister that China opposes unilateral sanctions and supports Tehran’s efforts to safeguard its interests.

FILE PHOTO: Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi attends a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Bocharov Ruchei residence in Sochi, Russia May 13, 2019. Sputnik/Alexei Druzhinin/Kremlin via REUTERS/File Photo

U.S.-Iranian tensions have escalated in recent days, bringing increasing concerns about possible conflict.

Iran has said it is committed to its obligations under an international nuclear deal despite the U.S. withdrawal from the agreement last year, and has called the re-imposition of U.S sanctions unacceptable.

Meeting in Beijing, Chinese State Councillor Wang Yi told Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif that given the important and rapidly-evolving situation, the two needed to strengthen communication and coordination.

“China resolutely opposes the U.S. implementation of unilateral sanctions and so-called ‘long arm jurisdiction’, understands the current situation and concerns of the Iranian side, and supports the Iranian side to safeguard its legitimate rights and interests,” China’s Foreign Ministry paraphrased Wang as saying.

China appreciates Iran’s full implementation of the nuclear deal and intention to stick to it, Wang added.

“The dispute surrounding the Iranian nuclear agreement is essentially a contest between multilateralism and unilateralism,” he said.

China’s Foreign Ministry cited Zarif as saying that Iran has no intention to withdraw from the nuclear agreement and opposes war. “The Strait of Hormuz maintains its status as an international transportation channel,” the statement cited Zarif as saying.

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards have threatened to close the strategic waterway, through which a significant part of the world’s oil supply flows.

China has close energy and business ties with Iran, but has to tread carefully as it has also cultivated good relations with Iran’s regional rival, Saudi Arabia.

Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Catherine Evans and Andrew Cawthorne

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