Iran’s Raisi makes first state visit to China

Chinese President Xi Jinping has promised his Iranian counterpart, Ebrahim Raisi, that China will back Iran’s efforts to find a “proper resolution” to its nuclear issue, according to state broadcaster CCTV.

During Raisi’s three-day state visit to China, Xi pledged his support to Iran in protecting its rights and to assist with resolving the issue as quickly as possible. The Iranian leader was given a red carpet reception and a 21-cannon salute.

The visit, the first by an Iranian president in more than 20 years, aims to boost trade and economic ties between the two countries. The Iranian delegation includes the central bank chief and ministers for oil and mining. Both countries face pressure from the West over their positions on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and Iran is already under US sanctions over its nuclear programme.

Beijing currently recieves most of its energy supplies from the Middle Esat and has for years been trying to tread a narrow diplomatic path between Iran and its regional rival, Saudi Arabia. While China desperately requires good relations with the Gulf states to secure oil and gas supplies, as well as helping to establish China as a superpower amid declining American influence in the region. Yet Xi’s cosying up to Gulf states has offended their other strategic partner, Iran. During Xi’s visit to Saudi Arabia in December he signed up to a communique with the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC), an organisation of regional governments which offended the Iranians. In response, China’s ambassador to Iran was summoned.

Last year media in China reported that Iran had brought $4 billion dollars worth of arms from China. China is crucial to Iran as it is the only big market for its oil due to sanctions by the West in retaliation for the Iranian nuclear programme which explains why Raisi has decided to visit China. Last month, the US announced that it would put pressure on China to block Iranian oil exports, which are said to have increased in recent months.

Image Credit: Iranian presidency/AFP