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Iran is negotiating 25-year strategic accord with China, Zarif says

Iranian media have highlighted possibility that agreement would see Iran benefit from China’s robust economy
Iran Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, left, and Miao Lu, secretary-general of Center for China & Globalization, at Doha Forum in Qatar last December (AFP)

Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Sunday that Tehran has been negotiating a 25-year accord with China whose terms will be announced once a deal is struck.

"With confidence and conviction, we are negotiating a 25-year strategic accord with China," Iran's top trading partner, he told a stormy session of parliament.

China is also a key market for Iranian crude oil exports, although those have been dampened by US economic sanctions imposed after Washington's 2018 withdrawal from the nuclear deal with Tehran, AFP said.

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An accord with China has been a hot topic on Iranian social media since populist ex-president Mahmud Ahmadinejad last month denounced negotiations that were underway with a foreign country.

The agreement was raised by Ahmadinejad during a recent political visit to Gilan province, where he alleged that there was a secret agreement and argued against recognising the contract, according to the Jerusalem Post.

Still, Zarif, who came under fire over the 2015 nuclear accord that Iranian conservatives had opposed, insisted there was "nothing secret" about the China deal.

The nation will be informed "when an accord has been concluded", he said, adding it had already been made public in January 2016 when Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Tehran.

In the last several days, Iranian media have highlighted the possibility that the agreement would see Iran benefit from China’s robust economy and help increase the partnership between the two countries, the Jerusalem Post noted.

The two countries already have warm relations and Beijing may be keen to knit Iran more deeply into its various economic plans at a time when Iran has turned to China and other countries in its struggle against damaging US economic sanctions.

Washington is also currently pushing to extend a UN arms embargo on Iran that is set to expire in October.

The US already has the support of Saudi Arabia and Israel, but China, Russia, Germany, the UK and France - all members of the UNSC and signatories to the nuclear deal with Iran - have publicly expressed their opposition to the extension plan.

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