Iranian President Hassan Rouhani called on China to play a bigger role in the nuclear negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 powers (the U.S., U.K., France, Germany, Russia and China).
“Iran and China have had valuable cooperation in the field of peaceful nuclear technology since the past, and today, we want China to make more efforts within the framework of the negotiations between Iran and the G5+1 so that both sides can reach a comprehensive and final agreement,” President Rouhani said on Monday, according to Fars News Agency, a semi-official media outlet with ties to the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC).
Rouhani made the remarks during a meeting with the new Chinese Ambassador to Iran, Pang Sen.
For his part, Pang said that, “We have been, and are, opposed to the unilateral sanctions and dictating (them) to the countries outside the NPT (the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty), and I ensure that we will back Iran’s stance in the upcoming negotiations with the (Group) 5+1.”
The P5+1 and Iran recently wrapped up the fifth round of negotiations towards a comprehensive agreement on Iran’s nuclear program. In the interim deal signed back in November, the two sides established a July 20 deadline for reaching a comprehensive agreement. That deadline can be extended by six months by mutual agreement. So far, the two sides have said they remain committed to reaching a deal by July 20 and plan to restart talks in Vienna on July 2.
On Saturday, Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif met with Ambassador Pang in Tehran. “We are seeking the restoration of the inalienable rights of the Iranian nation (in nuclear talks), and the seriousness as well as avoiding excessive demands by some parties will make clinching the (final nuclear) agreement possible,” Zarif said at that meeting, according to Iranian news outlets.
Although China hasn’t traditionally played a major role in the P5+1 talks with Iran, Beijing is known to usually side with Russia against the Western powers in being more sympathetic to Iran. Foreign Minister Zarif has indicated that divisions between the P5+1 powers are hampering the current round of negotiations. The U.S. has denied that any such divisions exist.
Wang Qun, the director general of the Department of Arms Control of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, currently serves as China’s envoy to the P5+1 talks. Interestingly, before becoming China’s new ambassador to Iran, Pang held the position of director general of the Department of Arms Control at MFA. In that role, Pang led the Chinese delegation to the P5+1 talks with Iran. His appointment as China’s new envoy to Tehran suggests that Beijing is enhancing the role of the nuclear issue in its relations with Iran.