China vows closer Iran ties on multilateral forums in first meeting since latest Israel-Gaza war

China will boost coordination with Iran on multilateral platforms such as the United Nations, SCO and Brics, Premier Li Qiang said, as senior leaders of the two countries met for the first time since the latest Israel-Gaza war broke out.

Li, China’s No 2 official, made the comments during talks with Iranian First Vice-President Mohammad Mokhber on the margins of Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) meetings in Bishkek on Thursday. Their meeting in the Kyrgyz capital came three months after Iran became the ninth full member of the Beijing-led, security-focused bloc.

China’s interactions with Iran have attracted international attention amid speculation over whether Beijing – which earlier this year mediated a rapprochement between long-standing adversaries Iran and Saudi Arabia – might be able to help prevent a spillover of the latest escalation in the decades-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Tehran has been a long-term supporter of Palestinian militant groups Hamas and Hezbollah. However, it has denied involvement in Hamas’ deadly October 7 cross-border attack on Israel that triggered Israeli air strikes, artillery shelling and tank raids into Hamas-controlled Gaza.

Israel-Lebanon border casualties as army and Iran-backed Hezbollah trade fire

Iranian media said Li and Mokhber touched upon the Gaza conflict in their talks, quoting the Chinese premier as expressing Beijing’s interest in “more coordination with Tehran” while calling for Islamic countries to “work together to de-escalate tensions”.

“The tragedies in Gaza have increased the instability of the Middle East, and in the meantime, Beijing’s position is quite clear. It wants a quick ceasefire and the protection of civilians from all sides and not [the] spreading [of] tension,” Li was quoted as saying by Tehran’s semi-official Fars News Agency.

However, a readout from Chinese state news agency Xinhua did not mention Li’s remarks on the Gaza conflict.

According to Xinhua, Li pledged Beijing’s continued support for Tehran in safeguarding its national sovereignty, saying it would “strongly oppose any external forces interfering in Iran’s internal affairs”.

This comes as China continues its diplomatic efforts to push for a ceasefire in Gaza, with Chinese President Xi Jinping saying a two-state solution, involving an independent Palestine existing peacefully side by side with Israel, was the “fundamental way out of the recurring Palestine-Israel conflict”.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi has condemned the “collective punishment” of Gaza’s civilians and held talks on the matter with several international counterparts in recent weeks, including those from Iran, Brazil, the United States and Saudi Arabia.

Zhai Jun, China’s special envoy for the Middle East, is touring the region to forge a peace consensus. Visiting Saudi Arabia on Thursday, Zhai repeated China’s call for a ceasefire and sadness at the continued civilian casualties. He has yet to visit Iran on this trip.

china vows closer iran ties on multilateral forums in first meeting since latest israel gaza war 1


Humanitarian crisis unfolding in Gaza as food supplies run out after total Israeli blockade

Humanitarian crisis unfolding in Gaza as food supplies run out after total Israeli blockade

According to Xinhua’s report from Bishkek, Li told Mokhber that China stood ready to practise “true multilateralism, and safeguard the common interests of developing countries”, as he pledged greater communication with Iran within multilateral mechanisms such as the UN, SCO and Brics.

Iran and other Middle East powerhouses have been the most eager respondents as Beijing increasingly presents itself as a leader of the developing world, and backs moves to expand international groupings such as Brics and the SCO.

Iran became a full SCO member in July, and will be among six countries joining original Brics nations Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa as permanent members in January. The other five are Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia and Argentina.

China and Iran should implement their “comprehensive cooperation plan”, Li said, while highlighting education, culture, tourism and people-to-people exchanges.

“China is ready to work with Iran to implement the important consensuses reached by the two heads of state, enrich the connotation of the China-Iran comprehensive strategic partnership, and bring more benefits to the two peoples,” the Xinhua readout quoted him as saying.

Mokhber said Iran was willing to work with China, its “comprehensive strategic partner” on belt and road cooperation, referring to the Beijing-led multinational infrastructure initiative. He also pledged Iran’s resolve to strengthen connectivity and mutually beneficial cooperation in various fields.

He invited China to invest more in Iran including in infrastructure and energy projects and the tourism industry, saying developing China ties represented “one of the serious” aims of Tehran.

South China Morning Post

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