Tasnim – China’s Ambassador to Iran Chang Hua described the JCPOA as “an important positive factor in maintaining regional and global peace and stability” and urged the international community to oppose US unilateralism and its attempts to extend or reinstate sanctions against Iran.
“The parties (to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal) should support strengthened dialogue and cooperation between the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and Iran in order to properly resolve the safeguards issue as soon as possible. At the same time, the international community should jointly oppose the US pushing the Security Council to extend or reinstate sanctions against Iran and urge the US to return to the right track of compliance with the JCPOA and UNSCR,” Chang Hua told Tasnim in an exclusive interview.
“Unfortunately, the US has in recent years been upholding unilateralism, renouncing its international obligations, and withdrawing from treaties and organizations. It withdrew from the JCPOA in May 2018 and thwarted in every means other parties’ implementation of the agreement. Such a clear violation of the UNSCR 2231 has led to continued tension over the Iranian nuclear issue. At present, the US attempts to further undermine the JCPOA by pushing for the extension of the Security Council arms embargo against Iran and threatening to activate the rapid reinstatement of sanctions mechanism,” he further said.
Following is the full text of the interview:
Tasnim: The 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers has seen ups and downs over the past five years. Some say that the deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, is currently in “coma”. However, the remaining parties are still seeking to preserve it. What are your thoughts on this?
Amb. Chang: Five years ago, the P5+1 (China, Russia, France, Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States), the European Union, and Iran reached the historic JCPOA in Vienna. This important outcome of multilateral diplomacy was then endorsed by UN Security Council Resolution 2231. The JCPOA has become a key element of the international nuclear non-proliferation system, an important positive factor in maintaining regional and global peace and stability, and good practice of resolving regional hotspot issues through multilateral approaches.
Unfortunately, the US has in recent years been upholding unilateralism, renouncing its international obligations, and withdrawing from treaties and organizations. It withdrew from the JCPOA in May 2018 and thwarted in every means other parties’ implementation of the agreement. Such a clear violation of the UNSCR 2231 has led to continued tension over the Iranian nuclear issue. At present, the US attempts to further undermine the JCPOA by pushing for the extension of the Security Council arms embargo against Iran and threatening to activate the rapid reinstatement of sanctions mechanism.
China believes that preserving and implementing JCPOA is the right way to resolve the Iranian nuclear issue. Iran’s scaling back of compliance is the result of the maximum pressure exerted by the US. Parties to the JCPOA should strengthen dialogue and consultation within the framework of the Joint Commission, seek a solution to the compliance dispute in a step-by-step and reciprocal approach, and restore the balance of rights and obligations under the JCPOA. The parties should support strengthened dialogue and cooperation between the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and Iran in order to properly resolve the safeguards issue as soon as possible. At the same time, the international community should jointly oppose the US pushing the Security Council to extend or reinstate sanctions against Iran and urge the US to return to the right track of compliance with the JCPOA and UNSCR.
Tasnim: As you know, the US and European parties to the deal have failed to fully honor their obligations under the agreement. Washington is also encouraging the remaining parties to abandon it. What is China’s stance on this? What is the root cause of this?
Amb. Chang: The root cause of the current crisis is the US withdrawal from the JCPOA and its unilateral sanctions against Iran. On the Iranian nuclear issue, China’s unwavering aim is to maintain the international nuclear non-proliferation regime and peace and stability in the Middle East and to uphold multilateralism, the authority of the UN, and the international order based on international law. In the process of negotiating the JCPOA, China actively promoted peace talks, put forward China’s proposal at a critical moment, and made due contributions to reaching the agreement. In the implementation of the agreement, China has conscientiously fulfilled its obligations and led the Arak heavy water reactor conversion with positive progress, which has become a major highlight. No matter how the international situation evolves, China will always stand on the right side of history and work with other parties to the JCPOA to continue advancing the political and diplomatic resolution of the Iranian nuclear issue. At the same time, we will firmly safeguard our legitimate rights and interests.
Tasnim: The International Atomic Energy Agency’s Board of Governors recently adopted a resolution drafted by the UK, France, and Germany against Iran. Russia and China voted against the resolution. What is China’s view of the IAEA stances?
Amb. Chang: China supports the IAEA in playing its role in an objective, professional and neutral manner in verifying Iran’s compliance with its safeguards obligations. We are against politicizing its work. The IAEA explicitly states that the safeguards issue neither is urgent nor poses a proliferation risk. The Iranian side also expressed its clear wish to resolve issues through dialogue with the agency. Under such circumstances, China does not approve of actions that artificially exacerbate tensions and escalate the situation. We hope relevant parties will remain calm, exercise restraint, and support Iran and the IAEA in resolving differences through dialogue and cooperation.
Tasnim: The US is seeking to extend a UN arms ban against Tehran, which is a violation of the UNSC Resolution 2231. It has also threatened Iran with triggering the dispute mechanism. How much do you think this claim by the US is based on legal and political grounds?
Amb. Chang: Recently, the United States has publicly pushed the Security Council to extend the arms embargo against Iran, once again undermining the efforts of all parties to maintain the JCPOA. China is opposed to that. All provisions of Resolution 2231 should be implemented, including arrangements on arms-related restrictive measures. Having quit the JCPOA, the US is no longer a participant and has no right to trigger snap-back at the Security Council.
Tasnim: How much do you think Washington’s unilateral approaches such as abandoning the JCPOA or quitting an organization like the WHO could affect the world order as well as cooperation among nations?
Amb. Chang: At present, international anti-epidemic efforts are at a trying moment. Supporting WHO means supporting international anti-epidemic cooperation and saving lives. This is a broad consensus of the international community. The situation concerning the Iranian nuclear issue is at a critical stage, and the JCPOA is facing a severe test. Complete and effective implementation of the JCPOA is the only right way to resolution of the Iranian nuclear issue.
The world is facing many global challenges and COVID-19 is the biggest one. However, the international community should not ignore that unilateralism is posing a bigger threat, weakening the multilateralism system, and hindering international cooperation. the world is increasingly fragmented, and the problem facing the world is not the problem between member states, but between multilateralism and unilateralism, and between right and wrong. China is a dedicated supporter, defender, and promoter of the UN Charter and the UN. China, as always, takes the side of multilateralism and international justice.
Tasnim: After leaving the JCPOA, the US imposed fresh sanctions against Iran. There are also reports about Washington’s plan to sanction China. Some believe that the US is seeking to “take the world’s economic system as a hostage” to prevent others from making progress. What are your thoughts on this?
Amb. Chang: China firmly opposes the US unilateral sanctions and so-called “long-arm jurisdiction”. The normal, legitimate cooperation between Iran and the international community, including China, under the framework of international law, should be respected and protected. We urge the US to respect China’s interests and concerns and not to take wrong actions that harm China’s interests. China will continue to take necessary measures to safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of its businesses.
Tasnim: How do you Iran-China mutual ties? Do you think the current level of cooperation between the two nations is a result of the JCPOA and developments around it?
Amb. Chang: China and Iran are comprehensive strategic partners, and have always understood and supported each other. In the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, China and Iran have been helping each other and jointly writing a new chapter in their friendship. The development of China and Iran as two emerging market economies is an unstoppable trend of history.
China always takes a strategic and long-term view of China-Iran relations. No matter how the international and regional situation changes, China is willing to work with Iran to promote China-Iran comprehensive strategic partnership.
China and Iran enjoy traditional friendship and the two sides have maintained close communication on the development of bilateral relations. We stand ready to steadily advance our practical cooperation.
Tasnim: Will the outbreak of the COVID-19 and its economic consequences affect China’s seriousness to go ahead with its massive global economic effort, called the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI)? How could Iran help with this?
Amb. Chang: Thanks to the active participation and strong support of all parties, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has evolved into the largest platform for international cooperation. Over the past year and more, despite headwinds like COVID-19 and a sluggish global economy, Belt and Road cooperation has pressed ahead against all odds and made further progress, with an ever-expanding family of partners, growing trade and economic exchanges, enhanced connectivity, and strong solidarity and mutual assistance among BRI partners. All this has highlighted the strong resilience and vitality of Belt and Road cooperation.
As President Xi Jinping pointed out in his written message to the High-level Video Conference on Belt and Road International Cooperation on 18 June, the sudden attack of COVID-19 has posed a grave threat to the lives and health of people across the globe. It has dealt a heavy blow to the world economy and caused tough economic and social challenges to some countries, developing ones in particular. COVID-19 has made many things clear to mankind. For one thing, all nations have their destinies closely connected, and humanity is in fact a community with a shared future. Be it in taming the virus or in achieving economic recovery, humanity cannot succeed without solidarity, cooperation and multilateralism. The right approach to tackling global crises and realizing long-term development is through greater connectivity, openness, and inclusiveness. This is where Belt and Road international cooperation can make a big difference.
China is committed to peaceful development and mutually beneficial cooperation. China will work with its partners to develop the Belt and Road into a model of cooperation for meeting challenges through unity, a model of health for protecting people’s safety and well-being, a model of recovery for restoring economic and social activity, and a model of growth for unlocking development potential. High-quality Belt and Road cooperation among participating countries will contribute to a community with a shared future for mankind.
Iran is the hub of the land and maritime Silk Road. It ever was and remains an important country along the Silk Road. The cooperation between China and Iran under the “Belt and Road” initiative enjoys bright prospects.