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Ambassador Chang Hua Gives Interview to Mehr News Agency

Question: Iranian Elect President Raisi has said that "Look at East" is among his administration's priorities. Considering the new approach of Iranian administration, how do you see the boosting of relations between Iran and China in the future?

Answer: On June 21, Chinese President Xi Jinping sent a telegram of congratulation to His Excellency Mr. Ebrahim Raisi on his election as president of the Islamic Republic of Iran. In his message, President Xi pointed out that China and Iran are comprehensive strategic partners, and this year marks the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations of the two countries. He attaches great importance to the development of China-Iran relations, and stand ready to work with President Raisi to strengthen bilateral strategic communication, consolidate political mutual trust, and broaden and deepen mutually beneficial cooperation of China and Iran in various fields, so as to benefit the two countries and the two people.

I noticed that Mr. Raisi made positive remarks on Iran-China relations at his press conference on June 21. China also highly values its bilateral relations with Iran and is willing to work hand in hand with Iran to take the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries as an opportunity to enhance China-Iran relations to a new level.

Q: What variables can help the two states boost their ties at this moment? Can the US sanction stop the two countries from developing their relations? Joe Biden expressed concerns over Iran and China cooperation a couple of months ago. Why does Tehran-Beijing cooperation worry them?

A: History proves that China-Iran relations have withstood the test of the changing international situation, the two countries always support each other in upholding their national sovereignty and national dignity, and safeguarding their own development path. No matter how the world changes, China's willingness to develop relations with Iran will never change. Standing by each other's side and helping each other, China and Iran have joined hands to fight against the COVID-19 pandemic and achieved positive results in bilateral practical cooperation. The two countries firmly support each other on the issues related to their core interests and major concerns, which has greatly consolidated the strategic mutual trust between the two nations and defended international equity and justice.

In recent years, the US withdrew itself from the JCPOA and reimposed sanctions on Iran, which brought difficulties and obstacles to China-Iran practical cooperation. China supports Iran's reasonable appeals based on the JCPOA and is always determined to preserve legitimate cooperation with Iran in trade, energy and other areas with concrete actions, and actively calls on the international community to protect the legitimate economic interests of Iran. At present, the talks on bringing the US and Iran back to the deal are at the final stage, but sanction-lifting and related issues are yet to be resolved. Iran's concerns about these issues are legitimate and reasonable. In order to resume full compliance with the JCPOA, the United States should first lift its unilateral sanctions against Iran, including secondary sanctions and long-arm jurisdiction against third-parties. Now that the United States has made the political decision to return to the JCPOA, all relevant sanctions should be lifted in a complete, clean and thorough manner At the same time, through negotiations, practical and effective measures should be taken to prevent the relevant parties from arbitrarily withdrawing from the JCPOA again and re-imposing sanctions.

Q: Recently G7 summit allocated a huge amount of money to hamper China's Belt and Road Initiative. Can this force China to stop this project? Will the move of G7 affect Iran and China's decision to boost ties under the comprehensive cooperation agreement? Will it affect Iran's status in Belt and Road project?

A: The multipolarization and democratic international relations are irresistible trend of the times. The era of one country or a bloc of countries dictating world affairs is over. Under the current situation, the international community need to strengthen solidarity and cooperation and practice true multilateralism more than ever. Countries should not seek bloc politics based on the interests of small cliques.

In his keynote speech at the Boao Forum for Asia Annual Conference 2021, President Xi Jinping stressed that China would continue to work with other parties on high-quality Belt and Road cooperation to build a closer partnership for health cooperation, connectivity, green development, openness and inclusiveness. The Belt and Road Initiative is a platform for economic cooperation, not a geopolitical tool. The BRI is an open and inclusive initiative for cooperation, which follows the principle of extensive consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits, and focuses on policy coordination, connectivity of infrastructure, unimpeded trade, financial integration and closer people-to-people ties. The BRI cooperation is showing great resilience and vitality. According to the latest figures from China's Ministry of Commerce, in the first five months of this year, China's non-financial direct investment in countries along the Belt and Road reached 7.43 billion dollars with a year-on-year increase of 13.8%. Contracted projects are also progressing steadily. Amid the epidemic, the impressive success achieved in BRI cooperation is particularly inspiring. The initiative gives strong impetus to economic recovery and development for countries along the routes, and thus is endorsed and praised by the people of these countries.

More and more friends and partners are joining in the BRI. Up to date, altogether 140 countries and 32 international organizations have joined in the initiative with fruitful cooperation in various fields, making the BRI a popular global public good. Since the outbreak of COVID-19, the BRI partners have worked together to strengthen the building of a "Silk Road for health", a "green Silk Road" and a "digital Silk Road", making new progress, and contributing to the fight against the epidemic, to economic stability and to people's livelihood in all countries.

Iran has been an important transport hub and distribution center on the Silk Road since ancient times, and remains a key partner of cooperation in the construction of BRI today. China stands ready to work with Iran to further deepen practical cooperation in different sectors, promote the BRI with solid steps, and make greater contributions to the construction of a community with a shared future for Asia-Pacific region and the entire mankind. 

Q: Recently we are witnessing new wave of tensions and insecurity in Afghanistan and the US efforts to station its troops in Central Asia. Will these developments affect the China's Belt and Road and generally speaking, can this instability be used as a tool to contain China?

A: As a friendly neighbor of Afghanistan, China has all along actively supported the peace process in Afghanistan and been making efforts in this regard. In May, State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi presided over the China+Central Asia Foreign Ministers meeting, which issued a joint statement on the Afghan issue. In June, Mr. Wang Yi chaired the fourth China-Afghanistan-Pakistan Foreign Ministers Dialogue, during which he put forward important proposals on advancing peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan. China has also actively promoted the Shanghai Cooperation Organization to play a bigger role on peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan. The accelerated unilateral withdrawal of troops by the United States and some Western countries from Afghanistan poses a challenge to and also offers an opportunity for Afghanistan and other countries in the region. The challenge lies in whether the withdrawal will lead to changes on the negotiation table among Afghans, and even result in wars and strife. The opportunity is that the pull-out of external military forces from Afghanistan will create conditions and open up prospects for the Afghan people to truly take control of their own future and destiny. China believes that the fundamental way to overcome the challenge and seize the opportunity is to unswervingly promote the peace and reconciliation process within Afghanistan. To this end, China puts forth five points of propositions. First, adhere to the fundamental "Afghan-led, Afghan-owned" principle. Second, maintain the momentum of intra-Afghan talks. Third, bring the Taliban back into the political mainstream. Fourth, the international community and the countries in the region should provide full support. Fifth, strengthen sincere cooperation among China, Afghanistan and Pakistan. 

Since the beginning of this year, Afghanistan has seen incessant domestic conflicts and frequent terrorist attacks, making the security situation more grave and complicated. The US, as the largest external factor on the Afghan issue, bears unshirkable responsibility to the current situation. The US' sudden announcement of a complete withdrawal from Afghanistan has directly led to immediate deterioration in the security situation in Afghanistan and seriously threatened the peace and stability of Afghanistan and the safety of people's lives. The US has left to the Afghan people a future that is riddled with problems and crises. The US troops should withdraw in a responsible manner to ensure a smooth transition in Afghanistan, so as to prevent terrorist forces from taking advantage of the chaos to fester and bring more turbulence and suffering to the Afghan people, and undermine regional peace and stability.

At the present, the MoU between China and Afghanistan on Belt and Road cooperation is being implemented in an orderly manner, with China's accumulated free aid to Afghanistan amounting to billions of RMB yuan. Since the outbreak of COVID-19, China has provided multiple batches of medical supplies and emergency food assistance to Afghanistan. Earlier this month, 700,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines, ventilators and anesthetic equipment and other medical supplies have arrived in Kabul. China will do its utmost to continue to be a supporter, mediator and facilitator of the peace and reconciliation process in Afghanistan, to help the country achieve peace, stability, development and prosperity at an early date.

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