Beijing urges Iran to bend and resolve nuclear row

Envoy Yang Jiechi seeks greater flexibility from Rowhani during Tehran visit as China pursues greater political and economic role in Middle East

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 10 December, 2013, 5:15am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 10 December, 2013, 4:58pm

Top Chinese envoy Yang Jiechi has urged Iran's president to seize the opportunity created by last month's international deal over its nuclear programme and show flexibility in future talks and resolve the dispute.

Yang, a State Councillor, also discussed the conflicts in Syria and Afghanistan with President Hassan Rowhani as Beijing tries to play a greater political and economic role in the Middle East and South Asia.

Iran agreed on November 24 to curb some of its nuclear programme in return for the easing of international economic sanctions. The deal will last for six months to allow time for talks towards a permanent settlement.

Tehran has been accused by Western governments of using its nuclear energy programme to develop weapons, a charge it has denied.

"We hope Iran will seize the opportunity and continue to participate in the talks with flexibility and pragmatism so as to seek a solution most acceptable to all," Yang said during his visit to Tehran, the first high-level talks between the two sides since the deal was reached in Geneva.

"China also supports Iran's efforts to improve relations with the international community by showing more openness," Yang said, according to Xinhua.

Yang said the Geneva deal represented an important step towards a diplomatic solution to the Iranian nuclear dispute and that all sides should work together to implement the agreement and keep the momentum going for further talks.

Yang also said China supported Iran's right to the peaceful use of nuclear technology and reaffirmed China's commitment to playing a constructive role in finding a comprehensive final solution to the nuclear issue.

Rowhani told Yang that his country's nuclear programme was entirely peaceful and that Iran was committed to finding a solution to the dispute through talks, Xinhua said.

Analysts said Yang's visit was further evidence that Beijing was playing a bigger diplomatic role in the Middle East and the surrounding region.

"China is increasingly positioning its role in the Middle East as neutral broker between parties, adopting pragmatism, placing economic interests first and putting ideology aside," said Laurence Brahm, an expert on Sino-Middle-Eastern relations.

Brahm said China's diplomacy came against a backdrop of "America being perceived even under the Obama administration as having heavily biased interests in the Middle East, which have led to unbalanced approaches and a continuation of Bush's distorted view of the Islamic world in general''. "China has so far presented itself as playing a more even-handed, albeit cautious game among competing interests there, clearly to its own benefit," Brahm said.

Xiao Xian , the director of Yunnan University's Institute of Southwest Asia Studies, said China's had its own reasons for the policy shift.

"Ensuring energy supply, protecting China's growing trade with those countries and securing China's own national security from the threat of Islamic extremism are the three main issues that are related to China's Middle East policy ," Xiao said.