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Dec 6, 2023

China and Iran vow to work together for peace amid Israel-Gaza war
  • Communist Party international department chief Liu Jianchao meets several senior Iranian politicians during visit to Middle Eastern country

  • Beijing says it supports Tehran in its efforts to maintain regional stability, while Iran pledges to strengthen cooperation to address crisis

By Zhao Ziwen

Beijing and Tehran have vowed to support and coordinate with each other diplomatically amid the Israel-Gaza war.

Communist Party international department chief Liu Jianchao visited Tehran where he met several senior politicians on Tuesday.

They included Mohammad Bagher Zolghadr, secretary of the Expediency Discernment Council of Iran, an administrative assembly that plays an advisory role to the head of state, and Ghodrat Ali Heshmatian, the chairman of Iran’s House of Parties, a government-funded organisation aimed at minimising differences between the country’s registered political parties.

China said it supported Iran in playing its role to maintain regional peace and stability, while Iran pledged to step up coordination with China on international and regional affairs.

During Liu’s meeting with Heshmatian, he said Beijing would like to “strengthen communication and cooperation” with Tehran and support it to “maintain regional peace and stability, and firmly defend international justice”.

Heshmatian said Iran supported China’s position on promoting a ceasefire in the Israel-Gaza conflict, adding that Iran was willing to “strengthen cooperation with China under the United Nations framework and jointly address the challenges of the crisis”.

Zolghadr expressed his support for China during his meeting with Liu, saying Iran was “ready to work with China to end the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli issue and achieve justice”.

China helped broker a deal to resume diplomatic relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia earlier this year, but it has had few official exchanges with Tehran since the Israel-Gaza war started, despite Beijing being widely seen as having leverage with Iran.

Iran is believed to be a key military and financial backer of Hamas but has denied any involvement in the group’s sudden assault on Israel on October 7, which ignited the war in Gaza.

Tehran has backed other regional enemies of Israel, such as Hezbollah, a militant group and political party in Lebanon. It is also a key ally of Syria’s Bashar al-Assad government.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi spoke to his counterpart Hossein Amir-Abdollahian on the Gaza situation in early October.

Zhai Jun, Beijing’s special envoy to the Middle East, has made several trips to the region but has yet to visit Iran.

Beijing has stepped up its engagement with Tehran at the semi-official level.

Veteran diplomat Yang Wanming, chairman of the Chinese People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries, was in Tehran last week to discuss people-to-people exchanges.

This followed a trip by Wang Di, China’s head diplomat for West Asian and North African affairs, to Tehran in early November and Chinese Premier Li Qiang’s meeting with Iranian First Vice-President Mohammad Mokhber in late October.

During Liu’s meeting with Zolghadr, he said China would cooperate with Iran under the framework of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) and Brics, two blocs that are largely led by Beijing.

Earlier this year, Iran became the ninth member of the SCO, a security and economic grouping that includes Russia, China, India, Pakistan and four ex-Soviet Central Asian states – Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

Chinese President Xi Jinping pledged to work with Iran on multilateral alliances during his last meeting with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi in August on the sidelines of the Brics summit in Johannesburg.

China has been a crucial trading partner and oil buyer for Iran, which has been sanctioned by the United States and European powers. China has been Iran’s biggest trading partner for the past 10 consecutive years, according to the Chinese commerce ministry.

Ben Zhao Ziwen covers China diplomacy. He majored in journalism at the Hong Kong Baptist University and Arabic studies at the Beijing Foreign Studies University. He previously worked for Caixin in Beijing and spent a year in Sharjah, UAE.

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