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Source: Reuters

Feb 16, 2023

BEIJING, Feb 16 (Reuters) - China's President Xi Jinping and his Iranian counterpart, Ebrahim Raisi, called on Thursday for the lifting of sanctions on Iran as an integral part of a stalled international agreement on its nuclear programme.

Xi also accepted an invitation from Raisi to visit Iran and would do so at his convenience, the two leaders said in a joint statement on the last day of a three-day state visit to China by Raisi. Xi last visited Iran in 2016 as part of a tour of the Middle East.

The leaders in their statement called for the implementation of the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, under which Iran agreed with several countries, including the United States, to curb its nuclear programme in return for economic sanctions relief.

In 2018, then U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the deal and ordered the reimposition of U.S. sanctions on Iran.

President Joe Biden said in 2021 that the United States would return to the deal if Iran moved back into compliance but talks have stalled.

"All relevant sanctions should be fully lifted in a verifiable manner to promote the full and effective implementation," Xi and Raisi said.

China and Iran emphasised that lifting sanctions and ensuring Iran economic benefits were important components of the agreement, they said.

On Tuesday, Xi told Raisi that China would "participate constructively" in talks to resume negotiations on implementing the agreement, while expressing his support for Iran in safeguarding its rights and interests.

"China firmly opposes interference by external forces in Iran's internal affairs and undermining Iran's security and stability," the leaders said in the statement.The two leaders also drew up several initiatives, including promoting e-commerce and agriculture.

The show of cooperation was a contrast with Iranian anger in December last year over a statement that China and Gulf states issued during a visit by Xi to Saudi Arabia.

The China-Gulf Cooperation Council called on Iran to cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency and for a peaceful resolution to the issue of three islands ruled by Iran but claimed by the United Arab Emirates.The Iranian foreign ministry summoned the Chinese ambassador to Iran in response and expressed its "strong dissatisfaction" over the statement.

Reporting by Liz Lee and Bernard Orr; Additional reporting by Ryan Woo; Editing by Jacqueline Wong, Robert Birsel

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