Iranian Foreign Ministry Publishes 'Fact Sheet' On Sino-Iranian Agreement
The Iranian Foreign Ministry has published what it called a “fact sheet” on the 25-year "strategic agreement" signed with China in Tehran on Saturday. The fact sheet does not reveal any of the details of the agreement but focuses on what "it does not include."
According to the fact sheet, the agreement signed on Saturday by Foreign Minister Mohammad-Javad Zarif and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi is "a roadmap for cooperation" and no "contracts" were included in it. "Prospects for cooperation, whether economic, political, cultural or strategic, have not been quantified, therefore it does not include numbers on investment or financial and monetary resources."
A text leaked to the media last July, which outlined the proposal for the pact, was highly criticized by politicians and the public with many calling it "Iran's capitulation" to China and a "colonial contract" similar to the 1828 Treaty of Turkmanchai, which ceded control of large parts of Iran's northwestern territories to Tzarist Russia. Presumably in response to such criticisms which abound particularly on social media, the fact sheet underlines that the agreement does not bestow "management, administration or exploitation rights" of any region of the country or "mutual or unilateral [trade] monopoly".
The timeline offered in the foreign ministry's fact sheet confirms that the agreement has been in the pipeline since Chinese President Xi Jinping's January 2016 visit to Tehran during which in a joint statement the two countries announced expanding bilateral relations to "comprehensive strategic cooperation" level. Speaking at his meeting with the Chinese President, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei said agreeing to work toward a 25-year strategic cooperation plan was "very appropriate and wise". Although Khamenei repeats the motto of “Neither West nor East” of the founder of the Islamic Republic, he is known for his preference for relations with Eastern bloc countries. His views on the subject have been theorized and dubbed as "Looking to East", which was adopted as Iran's main foreign policy strategy during the presidency of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
"This agreement has the potential for signing tens, even hundreds of contracts [between the two countries]. Why isn't it published? Because publishing [the text of foreign] agreements is legally required but publishing [the text of] non-binding agreements is not so common. And [US] sanctions are doubly preventative [of their publication]," Reza Zabib, Foreign Ministry Director-General for the East, claimed in a series of tweets on Sunday accompanied by images of the “fact sheet”.
Mentioning US sanctions as a reason for not revealing the content of the agreement contradicts the fact sheet that says the document does not include any actual contracts or numbers.
Iranian businesses heavily weighed down by US sanctions is anxiously awaiting the details of the agreement to gauge their own prospects. "We urge [the authorities] to publish the details to shed light on the path and goal posts set [by the agreement]. All that has been said about Chinese participation in Iranian oil sector is currently only at a level of conjecture," Hamidreza Salehi, a member of the Sino-Iranian Chamber of Commerce, told the Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA) on Sunday. According to Salehi the US sanctions discourage Chinese companies from investing in Iran's oil sector. "But given the circumstances of both countries, it will be a win-win agreement if the rumors about Chinese companies' investment in our infrastructures in return for Iranian oil are true," he said while also warning that Iran should not put "all its eggs" in the oil market "in the basket of the Chinese."
However, Mostafa Behruzifar an oil analyst in Iran said Sunday that China lacks the technology to play a role in expanding Iran’s oil and gas industry.