China FM: Iran deal ‘first step’ toward settling nuclear issue

In meeting with President Peres, Wang Yi says he expects Tehran to fully comply with terms of interim agreement

Israeli President Shimon Peres meets with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi at the President's residence in Jerusalem, December 19, 2013 (photo credit:  Mark Neyman/GPO/Flash90)
Israeli President Shimon Peres meets with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi at the President's residence in Jerusalem, December 19, 2013 (photo credit: Mark Neyman/GPO/Flash90)

The Chinese government expects Iran to uphold to its obligations with regard to the interim nuclear deal signed with the P5+1 powers in Geneva last month, China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi said Thursday.

Speaking during a joint press conference with President Shimon Peres in Jerusalem, Wang said he believed the interim agreement with Tehran had the potential to develop into a full-scale solution to the years’-long standoff over Iran’s rogue nuclear program.

“The P5+1 and Iran reached an important, also preliminary, agreement marking the first step towards the settlement of the Iranian nuclear issue,” Wang said.

“What is important now is for all the parties concerned, Iran included, to fully comply with their respective obligations and responsibilities prescribed in this deal and for all the parties to work together to uphold the international non-proliferation regime and for promoting peace in the Middle East region,” he added.

China, a major customer of Iranian oil, has been a staunch backer of Tehran and has resisted efforts to impose heavier sanctions on the regime, receiving waivers from the US to continue dealing with the Islamic Republic.

Peres, who spoke before Wang, said that though the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program posed a threat to Israel, the Jewish state should be open to the prospect of achieving a final, long-lasting deal.

“Israel faces not only grave threats but also great opportunities. The threat of a nuclear Iran must be met,” Peres said. “The chance for peace must not be ignored. Peace is the greatest chance, Iran the gravest problem.”

The president urged China to push the Iranians to give up their nuclear aspirations

“The world, in which China is a major player, should help the Iranian people to divorce themselves from the policies of threats and hostilities to prevent her from acquiring nuclear capability and serving as a center of terror,” said Peres. “We do not view the Iranian people as our enemy, our enemies are the policies and ideology driving the current Iranian regime.”

The joint press conference highlighted a visit aimed at deepening diplomatic ties between the two countries and increasing trade relations.

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Wang and emphasized the various potential trade collaborations between China and Israel, including in hi-tech, irrigation, agriculture, green energy, and health services.

Netanyahu has made relations with China a priority. Last May, he led a large delegation to China, meeting with top political and business officials and agreeing with his counterparts to establish a “task force” to improve trade ties.

In broad terms, Israel is a tiny trade partner for China. Bilateral trade is expected to be about $8 billion this year, compared to $6.7 billion in 2010, according to the Israeli Foreign Ministry.

But China is interested in many technologies where Israel is considered a world leader, such as water recycling, desalination, agriculture and health and medicine, providing great potential for Israeli companies.

Netanyahu has reportedly sought to keep the focus of the visit on trade relations, while the Chinese are seeking a greater diplomatic role in the region, especially concerning Israeli-Palestinians peace talks.

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