BEIJING (Dispatches) – Chinese President Xi Jinping hailed Beijing’s “solidarity” with Iran on Tuesday as he hosted the Islamic Republic’s President Ebrahim Raisi at the start of a three-day trip.
For the first state visit by an Iranian president to China in more than 20 years, Raisi has brought a large trade and finance delegation to Beijing and was earlier greeted by Xi on a red carpet.
“In the face of the current complex changes in the world, times, and history, China and Iran have supported each other and worked together in solidarity and cooperation,” Xi said, according to state broadcaster CCTV.
China “supports Iran in safeguarding national sovereignty, independence, territorial integrity and national dignity... and in resisting unilateralism and hegemonism”, CCTV reported Xi as saying.
Beijing also “opposes external forces interfering in Iran’s internal affairs and undermining Iran’s security and stability”, and will continue to “promote the early and proper resolution of the Iranian nuclear issue”, the Chinese leader said.
“No matter how the international and regional situation changes, China will unswervingly develop friendly cooperation with Iran”, Xi added.
According to CCTV, the two sides signed a number of bilateral cooperation documents in the fields of agriculture, trade, tourism, environmental protection, health, disaster relief, culture and sport.
Xi and Raisi attended the signing of 20 cooperation agreements including trade and tourism, the Chinese government announced. Those add to a 25-year strategy agreement signed in 2021 to cooperate in developing oil, industry and other fields.
China is one of the biggest buyers of Iranian oil and a source of investment.
Raisi and Xi met for the first time last September at a Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit in Uzbekistan, where the Iranian president called for expanded ties.
According to Iranian state news agency IRNA, Raisi will take part in meetings with Chinese businessmen and Iranians living in the country.
China is Iran’s largest trading partner, IRNA said, citing the 10-month statistics of Iranian customs authorities. Tehran’s exports to Beijing stood at $12.6 billion, while it imported $12.7 billion worth of goods from China.
Raisi is being accompanied by the country’s foreign minister and the ministers for the economy, roads and transportation, and oil. Also attending is the minister for industry, mining and trade, as well as the minister for agriculture, according to Iranian state television.
His delegation also includes Ali Bagheri, Iran’s deputy foreign minister for political affairs and its chief nuclear negotiator.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said Raisi would meet with Premier Li Keqiang and top Chinese legislator Li Zhanshu.
Xi said China will continue to constructively participate in the negotiations on resuming Iran’s nuclear agreement.
President Raisi echoed Xi’s comments on external forces, adding that Tehran also backed Beijing’s safeguards on national sovereignty and territorial integrity.
In addition, he pledged that Iran would actively take part in the Belt and Road Initiative, China’s global infrastructure development strategy.
Raisi also said Iran would strengthen its ties with China on all levels, deepen cooperation in trade and infrastructure, and welcome more Chinese investment and tourists.
The Iranian president arrived in Beijing on Tuesday and was welcomed with a 21-gun salute and a guard of honor in Tiananmen Square.
Before leaving for the Chinese capital on Monday night, Raisi said Iran aimed to advance implementation of the landmark 25-year strategic cooperation agreement the two countries signed two years ago.
He said it was necessary to step up efforts to push forward cooperation in economic, energy, financial and monetary areas.
Beijing’s relationship with Washington is also at its worst in recent decades with tensions mounting across multiple fronts, from trade to advanced technology to the military.
“It’s a sensitive moment for both China and Iran and their own development,” said Fan Hongda, professor at Shanghai International Studies University’s Middle East Studies Institute.
Ma Xiaolin, an international relations scholar at Zhejiang International Studies University in Hangzhou, said Raisi might seek Beijing’s support to use more yuan in trade settlements and investment with Iran.
“Iran may be looking for how to put the 25-year comprehensive cooperation plan into practice, while Raisi may also want to seek support from Chinese leaders, for example, to use yuan to invest and purchase energy deals,” Ma said.