Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi said on April 27 that his government wants to expand cooperation with China, its largest trading partner, state media IRNA reported.
The remarks were made in Tehran during a visit by China’s defense minister, Wei Fenghe, who said the visit was aimed at “improving strategic defense cooperation” between the two countries.
Iran and China have boosted their military ties in recent years, with their navies visiting each other’s ports and holding joint naval drills in the Indian Ocean.
Raisi described the ties between the two countries as “strategic.” He said that closer cooperation between Tehran and Beijing can confront what he called U.S. unilateralism.
“Confronting unilateralism and creating stability and order is possible through cooperation of independent and like-minded powers,” Raisi told Wei.
The Iranian president said that implementing a 25-year cooperation agreement with China, signed in March 2021, is high on the agenda, IRNA reported. That agreement involved political, economic, and strategic factors.
Wei told Raisi during the meeting that improving ties between Iran and China would provide security, “particularly in the current critical and tense situation.”
He also said the two countries can cooperate in all international matters and that unilateralism is the main factor blocking sustainable economic growth globally, according to IRNA.
Wei said Iran–China cooperation would have a “remarkable” impact in defusing unilateralism and fighting terrorism.
He also met with his Iranian counterpart, Gen. Mohammad Reza Ashtinai, and reportedly invited him to visit China, as well as with other Iranian military officials.
Maj. Gen. Mohammad Bagheri, chief of staff of Iran’s armed forces, told reporters in Tehran after meeting with Wei that the two countries “agreed to expand bilateral cooperation in joint military drills, exchange of strategies, training issues, and other common fields between the two countries’ armed forces so that we can provide better security for the two countries’ territories,” Al Arabiya News reported.
Wei’s visit comes amid stalled talks to revive Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers—China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
The 2015 Iran nuclear deal, also called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, requires Iran to restrict its nuclear program in return for an ease in economic sanctions from the United States, the EU, and the United Nations. President Barack Obama said in 2015 that the deal was the “best option” keeping Iran from wielding nuclear arms, even if temporarily.
A seventh round of talks, which started in November 2021 in efforts to revive the 2015 agreement, has been on pause since March 11.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.