ISLAMABAD (Dispatches) -- Talks between Iran and China aimed at finalizing a 25-year strategic cooperation agreement are continuing despite what Tehran dismissed as "baseless rumors” about the deal that leaked earlier this month.
The draft partnership proposal cited by the press calls for China to invest $400 billion in Iran’s energy, telecommunications, infrastructure, ports, railways and other sectors in exchange for Tehran’s supplying Beijing with a heavily discounted supply of oil over the next 25 years.
Iran’s ambassador to neighboring Pakistan, Muhammad Ali Husseini, has rebutted the reports as Western media propaganda.
"Given that no modalities have been agreed on the details of the cooperation so far, these rumors are baseless and mere political and media speculations,” Husseini said.
The Iranian envoy’s written remarks were read out at an online forum organized this week by the Islamabad Policy Institute (IPI), a nongovernmental Pakistani think tank, to discuss the prospective China-Iran partnership.
Husseini said that Tehran and Beijing were still consulting on the "generalities” to develop their bilateral cooperation "in a 25-year horizon.” He noted that discussions on what he referred to as the comprehensive document on strategic cooperation started during Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to Iran in 2016.
"This document is a comprehensive framework of long-term and strategic cooperation in all political and economic fields and in an equal and fair approach,” he said. Husseini went on to stress that "the dimensions of this document for cooperation have not so far reached the final conclusion.”
China remains Iran’s main trading partner and largest importer of Iranian oil. However, that cooperation has been undermined by U.S. economic sanctions imposed in 2018 after Washington withdrew from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action nuclear deal with Tehran.
The prospect of a strategic partnership between Iran and China comes at a time when the U.S. sees the outbreak of the coronavirus as an opportunity to crank up its sanctions
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pressure on the Islamic Republic instead of easing them up.
Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif told lawmakers earlier this month that "there is nothing to hide about the deal” and the details would be made public once they were finalized.
Beijing acknowledges the existence of the joint statement on the "comprehensive strategic partnership” issued during Xi’s visit.
Jin Liangxiang, a senior fellow at the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies, a government-affiliated think tank in China, told Wednesday’s online forum in Islamabad that Beijing’s relations with Tehran have matured in recent years.
He insisted that the long-term cooperation document was still a draft "even if it exists,” but he said it was not a good idea to leak details of such a document.
"In China, we have a very famous saying that if you want to do something, if you really want to achieve something, just do it. If you do not want to do it, you just bring out the plan for discussions, for debates,” Jin said.