The Foreign Minister of the Islamic Republic of Iran Mohammad Javad Zarif arrived in China today with a high-ranking delegation at the invitation of his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi to discuss the strategic partnership agreement and cooperation between the two countries.
The spokesman for Iran’s Foreign Ministry Saeed Khatibzadeh said Zarif and Wang Yi will exchange views on the regional and international developments and the expansion of bilateral relations between Tehran and Beijing.
“The two countries share views on important spheres such as the fight against the U.S. unilateralism and interference in the internal affairs of countries,” he pointed out.
China’s Foreign Ministry released a brief statement today only that Foreign Minister Javad Zarif was visiting at the invitation of his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi. China has been a staunch ally of Iran and remains a party to the 2015 Iranian nuclear agreement also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
The US withdrew from the deal in 2016 and unilaterally reinstituted sanctions on Iran.
The spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry discussed US sanctions on Iran today and told the reporters: Neglecting the purposes and principles of the UN Charter and the principles of international law, the US arbitrarily imposes unilateral compulsory measures such as economic blockade and financial sanctions against other countries, severely undermining international political and economic order, the global governance system, and the sanctioned countries' capabilities to develop their economy and improve people's lives. It has impact on the basic rights of innocent civilians, including women, children, the elderly and the disabled.
Negotiations over the 25-year plan between Iran and China, officially known as “Comprehensive Cooperation Plan between the People's Republic of China and the Islamic Republic of Iran,” is still ongoing although Iran has approved a draft of the plan on June 21.
Iran Reiterates Demand For US Lifting Sanctions First Before Any Talks
Iran has reiterated on Monday that the United States should lift sanctions first if it wants to hold talks with Tehran to salvage the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers that former President Donald Trump abandoned in 2018.
President Joe Biden has said Washington is ready for talks about both nations resuming compliance with the agreement, under which Tehran secured an easing of sanctions by limiting its nuclear work. But each side wants the other to move first.
While Trump imposed crippling sanctions on Iran, Tehran responded by violating the agreement known as JCPOA in 2019 by increasing uranium enrichment both in quantity and quality.
"President Joe Biden's administration should change Trump's maximum pressure policy towards Tehran ... If they want talks with Iran, first they should lift sanctions," Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said.
The US and its European allies offered Iran informal talks in February, but Tehran rejected it on Sunday, repeating its condition that sanctions should be lifted first.
Washington said on Sunday it was disappointed by Tehran's refusal but was ready to "re-engage in meaningful diplomacy" and would consult with major powers.
The Biden administration has also raised the issues of Iran’s ballistic missiles and its aggressive regional policies as part of a comprehensive deal with Tehran it says is necessary. Iran is insisting on limiting talks to the nuclear issue.
"The new U.S. administration's refusal to return to the deal is a historic mistake," Khatibzadeh said, saying Tehran would continue to work with the UN nuclear watchdog despite scaling back cooperation.
Israeli Military Accuses Iran Of Involvement In Ship Attack
Israel's military chief on Sunday called Iran "one of the biggest threats in the region", after security concerns were raised following an unexplained explosion of an Israeli-owned cargo ship in the Gulf of Oman.
The ship, which suffered damage in the explosion, came to Dubai's port for repairs on Sunday, days after the blast revived security concerns in Middle East waterways.
The concerns come at a time of heightened tensions with Iran, with several Israeli officials hinting that they believe it was responsible for the explosion
In a speech at an army base on Sunday, Israeli military Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi accused Iran of carrying out "operations against civilian targets," a charge the army later confirmed was in reference to the suspected ship attack.
Associated Press journalists saw the hulking Israeli-owned MV Helios Ray sitting at dry dock facilities at Dubai's Port Rashid.
Although the crew was unharmed in the blast, the vessel sustained two holes on its port side and two on its starboard side just above the waterline, according to American defense officials.
It remains unclear what caused the blast, but the incident comes amid sharply rising tension between the U.S. and Iran over its unraveling 2015 nuclear deal.
Kayhan, a hardliner newspaper in Iran financed by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei's office, acknowledged on Sunday that the attack on the Israeli ship was Tehran's response to a recent US air strike on Iran's proxy fighters based at the border between Syria and Iraq.
Syrian Army Says Israel Attacks Targets Around Southern Damascus
CAIRO/AMMAN, Feb 28 (Reuters) - The Syrian army said on Sunday evening that Israel conducted a rocket attack on targets in the vicinity of Damascus in an attack heard above the capital.
A Syrian army statement said the attack came from the Golan Heights and that it downed most of the missiles.
An Israeli military spokesman declined comment when asked about the report.
In a briefing to supporters of his party on Friday, Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz said Israel was taking action "almost weekly" to prevent Iranian entrenchment in Syria.
Regional intelligence sources say Iran's Quds Force and militias it backs whose presence has spread in Syria in recent years have a strong presence in a string of underground bases in the southern outskirts of Damascus.
Israel has regularly attacked what it says are Iranian-linked targets in Syria in recent years, and stepped up such strikes this year in what Western intelligence sources describe as a shadow war to reduce Iran’s influence.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government has never publicly acknowledged there are Iranian forces operating on his behalf in Syria’s civil war, only that Tehran has sent military advisers.
Western intelligence sources say Israeli strikes this year have undermined Iran’s extensive military power in Syria without triggering a major increase in hostilities.
Europe-Iran Business Forum To Start At Lower Diplomatic Level
The Europe-Iran Business Forum due to kick off on Monday [March 1] and last for three days will be conducted at a lower diplomatic level, the schedule of the conference showed on Sunday.
The online gathering was once cancelled in December when Iran hanged Rouhollah Zam, a dissident journalist. The event encountered new opposition by some European politicians and lawmakers who asked European Union senior officials not to attend.
The name of Josep Borrell, EU’s foreign policy chief no longer appears on the first-day agenda of the conference. It also seems Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif will not be speaking at the event.
Iran is trying hard to secure a trade opening with European countries as sanctions imposed by former US President Donald Trump in 2018 have led to a serious economic downturn, reduction in oil and non-oil exports and a high inflation rate. Trump rejected a nuclear agreement Tehran signed with world powers in 2015 and demanded new negotiations, which Tehran rejected.
President Joe Biden has indicated his intention to return to the agreement but is demanding Iran return to full compliance of the deal, while Tehran says the US should be the first to lift its sanctions.
In December, when the conference was postponed the Guardian newspaper’s Patrick Wintour pulled out as the event’s moderator protesting against Zam’s execution.
Many Iranian expatriates living in Western countries had launched a Twitter campaign for the forum to be cancelled and for Europe to take a stand against Iran’s violations of human rights. Iranian activists have often accused Europe of mainly caring about business opportunities and not taking human rights violation by the Islamic Republic seriously.
Newspaper In Iran Warns Of Infiltration By Chinese Agents
An article on Sunday in Iran’s Etelaat newspaper has warned the country’s foreign policy and intelligence officials that Chinese expat workers and businessmen might be agents of Beijing. Etelaat is a low-circulation daily financed by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei's office.
The author of the article, Shaban Shahidi-Moadab, Iran’s former ambassador to Malaysia said, “With all the respect we have for the Chinese government and emphasizing the importance of expanding ties with Beijing, we must warn foreign policy and intelligence officials to be careful about the presence of Chinese in Iran.”
The Islamic Republic has had good relations with China over decades and has tried to convince Beijing to sign a 25-year “strategic” pact since mid-2020. China is also a signatory of the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement with world powers and often supports Tehran’s diplomatic positions in its disputes with Washington.
Shahidi-Moadab also wrote, “China’s government tries to send its agents disguised as workers, experts and businessmen to other countries and it is possible that their extensive presence in Iran in some cases not to be in our national interest.”
Last year, when Iran was pushing the proposal for a strategic alliance with China there were many reports of providing port facilities and other strategic assets to Beijing in return for its economic and diplomatic support. These reports led to a strong public reaction by Iranians who condemned any concessionary policy, seen as an attempt by the Islamic Republic to save itself from further decline.
Biden To Congress: Strike On Iran-Backed Forces Consistent With US Right to Self-Defense
After US House Democrats asked President Joe Biden to clarify his order for the airstrike on Iran-backed militia in Syria without permission from Congress, Biden said his orders were consistent with the US right to self-defense.
"I directed this military action to protect and defend our personnel and our partners against these attacks and future such attacks," Biden wrote in his letter to Congress.
The airstrikes, early on Friday Middle Eastern time, targeted militia sites on the Syrian side of the Iraqi-Syrian frontier, where groups backed by Iran control an important crossing for weapons, personnel, and goods.
Those strikes came in response to a February 15 attack in which rockets hit Erbil International Airport, which hosts a coalition military base. The attack killed a civilian contractor with the US-led military coalition and injured several others, including an American service member.
“The United States took this action pursuant to the United States' inherent right of self-defense as reflected in Article 51 of the United Nations Charter," Biden added. “I directed this military action consistent with my responsibility to protect United States citizens both at home and abroad and in furtherance of United States national security and foreign policy interests, pursuant to my constitutional authority to conduct United States foreign relations and as Commander in Chief and Chief Executive.”
On Sunday, the official organ of the office of the leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Kayhan newspaper boasted about the recent attack on the Israeli ship in the Gulf of Oman being in response to the American and Israeli airstrikes against Iran-backed militia forces in Syria.
Kayhan: Attack On Israeli Ship Revenge For Attack On Iran-Backed Forces In Syria
The ultraconservative Kayhan daily financed by Iran's Supreme Leader boasted about the recent attack on an Israeli ship in the Gulf of Oman, and said the attack was in response to the American and Israeli airstrikes against Iran-backed militia forces in Syria.
“Mischief in Syria and Iraq received a response in Yemen and Oman sea," Kayhan wrote on Sunday [Feb. 28].
Helios Ray cargo ship owned by the Ray Shipping Company in Tel-Aviv was en route to Singapore when it suffered a mysterious explosion.
Kayhan mentioned that the US and Israel have increased their attacks against the “axis of resistance” in recent months and therefore the resistance groups targeted an Israeli ship in the Gulf of Oman.
The newspaper, which is published under the direct control of Khamenei’s representative, also mentioned the US military’s attack on the facilities of Iran-backed groups in Syria ordered by President Joe Biden and wrote: “With this attack, the US Command has exposed itself to revenge attacks”.
Israeli defense minister Benny Gantz said on Saturday his "initial assessment" was that Iran was responsible for an explosion on an Israeli-owned ship in the Gulf of Oman.
The ship, a vehicle-carrier named MV Helios Ray, suffered an explosion between Thursday and Friday morning. A US defense official in Washington said the blast left holes above the waterline on both sides of the hull. The cause was not immediately clear and no casualties were reported.
Afghan FM In Moscow Says Russia Will Not Accept Return Of A Taliban Regime
In his visit to Russia, the Foreign Minister of Afghanistan Mohammad Hanif Atmar told Iran International in an exclusive interview that the Russian officials “once again clearly declared that they will not accept the return of the Taliban regime.”
Atmar told Iran International's correspondent that Afghanistan and Russia “have a long history of cooperation and friendship” and his most important message to the Russian government was that Afghanistan invites Russia to have close cooperation in the fight against “the common threat of terrorism and violent fundamentalism”.
“The Russian government warned the Taliban that it will not help lift the UN sanctions on them unless they comply with their commitments under the Doha accord and reach a comprehensive peace agreement with the government of Afghanistan,” Atmar said after talks with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov.
He said Russia and Afghanistan are in agreement over the process of peace and they have discussed the disagreements “in a friendly atmosphere” and there is no concern.
Regarding the visit of the Taliban delegation to Iran and Russia, Atmar said besides a little publicity, “Taliban were very disappointed and had to return to the negotiating table two days ago.”
The Afghan Foreign Minister said during the Taliban delegation’s visit to Russia, they were told that “the return of their regime is unacceptable,” they must stop the violence against their own people and return to the negotiation table. He said the Taliban hoped to get the backing of Iran and Russia in opposition to the Afghan government and the US, but they were not successful.
He also emphasized that Kabul welcomes the new US administration’s decision to review the Doha accord.