Fo­cus shift

Sign­ing of nu­clear agree­ment opens door to new eco­nomic trade deals

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FRONT PAGE - By PU ZHENDONG and MO JINGXI Contact the writ­ers at puzhen­dong@chi­ cn and mo­jingxi@chi­ Xin­hua con­trib­uted to this story.

Te­heran is seek­ing more room for devel­op­ment af­ter an in­terim deal broke the decade­long dead­lock on its nu­clear is­sue, ob­servers say.

With the sign­ing of an in­terim deal on Iran’s nu­clear pro­gram, the coun­try is now seek­ing new eco­nomic op­por­tu­ni­ties through ac­tive diplomacy with ma­jor states, ac­cord­ing to ex­perts.

A num­ber of se­nior di­plo­mats and heads of state have booked vis­its to Te­heran since the deal was signed late last month, an in­di­ca­tion that the coun­try is keen to cap­i­tal­ize on its par­tially re­vived in­ter­na­tional stand­ing.

Among those head­ing to Iran is Chi­nese State Coun­cilor Yang Jiechi, who ar­rived in Te­heran on Sun­day af­ter a meet­ing with BRICS se­nior of­fi­cials in Cape Town, South Africa.

Days be­fore Yang’s ar­rival, Iraqi Prime Min­is­ter Nouri al-Ma­liki vis­ited Te­heran. The cap­i­tal also re­ceived Afghan Pres­i­dent Hamid Karzai on Sun­day, and Rus­sian For­eign Min­is­ter Sergey Lavrov is due in Te­heran later this week.

On Nov 24, P5+ 1 na­tions — the United States, Bri­tain, France, Rus­sia, China and Ger­many — struck a deal with Iran in Geneva, with Te­heran agree­ing to freeze part of its nu­clear pro­gram in ex­change for the lim­ited eas­ing of sanc­tions once a fi­nal deal is signed.

The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion on Nov 29 re­newed the ex­emp­tion from sanc­tions on Iran for a num­ber of economies in Asia and Africa, in­clud­ing China, In­dia and South Korea, cit­ing their con­tin­ued re­duc­tions in pur­chases of Ira­nian oil.

Within two weeks of the Geneva deal, Ira­nian Pres­i­dent Has­san Rouhani met with the Syr­ian prime min­is­ter and Turk­ish for­eign min­is­ter in Te­heran to fur­ther ce­ment re­la­tions with their al­lies in the re­gion.

Also, in an at­tempt to ease ten­sions with Gulf Arab states, Iran’s For­eign Min­is­ter Mo­hammed-Javad Zarif has spent the past week vis­it­ing Oman, Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emi­rates, show­ing a will­ing­ness to seek rec­on­cil­i­a­tion.

An­a­lysts said that Iran’s diplo­matic cam­paign fol­low­ing the deal aims to strengthen ties with the world and ex­ploit var­i­ous busi­ness op­por­tu­ni­ties to re­vive its econ­omy.

Ma Hong, a se­nior re­searcher at the China En­ergy Strate­gic Re­search In­sti­tute at China Univer­sity of Pe­tro­leum, said that en­ergy se­cu­rity in the Mid­dle East is one of China’s ma­jor con­cerns.

“Lift­ing sanc­tions on Iran will ease the pres­sure that Asia-Pa­cific na­tions feel over im­port­ing crude oil from Iran. More­over, oil prices might be low­ered, with more crude oil flow­ing into the in­ter­na­tional mar­ket. This is ben­e­fi­cial for China’s oil se­cu­rity,” Ma said.

Dong Manyuan, deputy direc­tor of the China In­sti­tute of In­ter­na­tional Stud­ies, said China’s diplomacy in Te­heran is aimed ini­tially at en­sur­ing the suc­cess of the Geneva deal.

“The main pur­pose of Yang’s visit is to per­suade Te­heran to work closely with other coun­tries to carry out the agreed con­sen­sus and to keep the res­o­lu­tion of the is­sue on the right track,” said Dong.

He said that Te­heran is ac­tively creat­ing a fa­vor­able re­gional and in­ter­na­tional en­vi­ron­ment for its eco­nomic re­cov­ery through diplo­matic means fol­low­ing the in­terim deal on Iran’s nu­clear pro­gram.

In his in­au­gu­ra­tion speech, Rouhani promised con­struc­tive in­ter­ac­tions with the world, say­ing that “hos­tile” re­la­tions be­tween Iran and the United States should be cor­rected to avoid con­fronta­tion.

On Sun­day, US Pres­i­dent Barack Obama said that the in­terim deal would pro­vide space for a longer-last­ing agree­ment to curb Iran’s nu­clear am­bi­tions, but he viewed the like­li­hood of a sat­is­fac­tory “end state” as a 50-50 propo­si­tion, and re­peated that all op­tions re­mained on the ta­ble if Iran did not fol­low through with its obli­ga­tions.

Ac­cord­ing to Dong, Iran’s re­cent diplo­matic cam­paign has demon­strated to the world that it plans to stick to the terms of the deal on its nu­clear pro­gram.

“In re­turn, Te­heran hopes that Wash­ing­ton can lift its sanc­tions as promised, which will cre­ate busi­ness op­por­tu­ni­ties worth bil­lions of dol­lars,” Dong said.

“De­vel­op­ing bet­ter bi­lat­eral ties with re­gional coun­tries and other pow­ers also fa­cil­i­tates Te­heran’s ef­forts to im­prove its re­la­tion­ship with Wash­ing­ton,” he added.

Iran has al­ready taken steps in re­build­ing ties with Bri­tain af­ter sev­er­ing diplo­matic ties with the coun­try two years ago. In November, Iran and Bri­tain an­nounced that each would ap­point a non-res­i­dent charge d’af­faires to the other coun­try.

Sadeq Zibakalam, a pro­fes­sor of pol­i­tics at Tehran Univer­sity, said the Geneva deal has ush­ered in a new era for Iran of diplo­matic re­la­tions with the world, es­pe­cially the West.

“The world needs Iran to solve prob­lems in the Mid­dle East. Iran’s sup­port and co­op­er­a­tion is needed for any pos­si­ble so­lu­tion,” Zibakalam said.

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