Iranian President Hassan Rowhani and Chinese President Xi Jinping. Photo: Reuters

NewChina to help Iran build high-speed rail as part of ‘One Belt, One Road’ strategy


China has agreed to give Iran financial aid to help build the Middle East nation’s high-speed train system as part of Beijing’s “One Belt, One Road” initiative.

The agreement, reached as President Xi Jinping wrapped up his tour in Tehran on Saturday, is Beijing’s latest effort to expand its diplomatic presence overseas.

Xi said at a joint press conference with his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rowhani that China would cooperate in building a rapid train system between Tehran and Mashhad, and help finance the projects.

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The two leaders also saw the signing of 17 bilateral agreement documents for cooperation in fields including infrastructure, investment and the environment.

The two nations vowed to boost bilateral trade to US$600 billion in the coming decade. Trade between the two countries stood at US$52 billion in 2014, but dropped last year due to plunging oil prices.

China is Iran’s biggest trade partner, and continued buying oil from Iran after nuclear-related sanctions were tightened in 2012, despite US pressure.

China has always stood by the side of the Iranian nation during hard days
Iranian President Hassan Rowhani

“China has always stood by the side of the Iranian nation during hard days,” Rowhani said.

Xi is the first foreign leader to visit Iran since international sanctions were lifted about a week ago under a nuclear deal reached last summer.

China is one of six world powers – alongside the United States, Germany, France, Britain and Russia – that reached a landmark agreement with Iran last summer to lift international sanctions in exchange for Tehran curbing its nuclear programme.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei told Xi that Iran would continue bolstering ties with the East. He praised China’s “independent” stance in global issues, saying it helped deepen strategic ties with Tehran.

“Westerners have never obtained the trust of the Iranian nation,” he said. “The government and nation of Iran have always sought expanding relations with independent and trustful countries like China.”

READ MORE: China, Iran opens ‘new chapter’ in bilateral ties as President Xi Jinping visits Tehran as peacemaker, power broker and major buyer of oil

State TV quoted Khamenei as saying: “The Islamic Republic will never forget China’s cooperation during the sanctions era.”

Xi said China would always be a “reliable cooperative partner” of Iran and that it was ready to deepen bilateral cooperation on “all fronts”, Xinhua reported.

China and Iran were “natural partners” in implementing the “One Belt, One Road”, Xi said, adding that Beijing supported a constructive role of Iran in regional affairs and was willing to work closely to facilitate long-term peace and stability in the region.

Xi concluded his five-day visit Saturday night, which also took him to Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

Kyodo and Associated Press