Chinese President Xi Jinping has expressed concern over an increase in tensions in the Middle East owing to the “extreme pressure” by the United States on Iran and urged all sides to show restraint.
In comments made to Russian media before a visit to the country on Wednesday, Xi also underlined the importance of a multinational nuclear deal between Iran and world powers for regional peace and stability and called for its full implementation.
Tensions between Washington and Tehran have escalated in recent weeks, a year after the administration of US President Donald Trump withdrew from the landmark Iran nuclear deal to curb the Islamic Republic’s nuclear programme in return for lifting of punishing sanctions.
Washington reimposed sanctions last year and tightened them sharply at the start of last month, ordering all countries to halt imports of Iranian oil. It has also hinted at military confrontation, sending extra forces to the region to counter what it describes as Iranian threats.
Xi told TASS news agency and Rossiyskaya Gazeta newspaper that because of the “extreme pressure” Washington has put on Tehran and the unilateral sanctions, tensions have continued to rise in the Middle East.
“The development of the situation is worrying,” Xi said, according to a transcript published by China’s Foreign Ministry ahead of his arrival in Russia.
Commenting on the nuclear deal, Xi said the positions of Beijing and Moscow on the issue “are highly aligned, and both hope that all relevant parties remain rational and exercise restraint, step up dialogue and consultations and lower the temperature on the present tense situation”.
China, which is locked in a major trade war with the US, has also been angered by Washington’s threats against countries and companies that violate US sanctions by importing Iranian oil. China and Iran have close energy ties.
Xi did not directly address the oil sanctions issue, but appeared to allude to them by saying, “China will continue to firmly safeguard its own legitimate and lawful rights and interests”.
During his June 5-7 visit to Russia, Xi is scheduled to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin and speak at a major investor forum in St Petersburg.
Last week, Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Hanhui told reporters that Beijing and Moscow had broad consensus and common interests on the trade war that has roiled global supply chains and financial markets.
“China and Russia will certainly strengthen economic and trade cooperation, including cooperation in various fields such as economic and trade investment,” Zhang said.
“We will certainly respond to various external challenges, do what we have to do, develop our economies, and constantly improve the living standards of our two peoples.”
Al Jazeera and news agencies