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Saturday, January 23, 2016, 18:36

China, Iran agree to expand ties

By Agencies

China, Iran agree to expand ties
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani shakes (left) hands with Chinese President Xi Jinping during a welcoming ceremony on Jan 23, 2016 in the capital Tehran. (AFP Photo)

TEHRAN - China and Iran agreed to expand bilateral ties to form a comprehensive strategic partnership, President Hassan Rouhani and visiting Chinese President Xi Jinping said on Saturday, calling it a "new season" in bilateral relations.

The Chinese president is the first leader to visit Iran since international sanctions on the Islamic Republic were lifted on Jan 16 after it struck a deal with six major powers to limit its nuclear program. China was one of the six.

"We are happy that President Xi visited Iran after the lifting of sanctions ... Iran and China have agreed to increase trade to US$600 billion in the next 10 years," Rouhani said at the news conference with Xi broadcast live on state television.

"Iran and China have agreed on forming strategic relations (as) reflected in a 25-year comprehensive document," he said.

Both countries signed 17 accords on Saturday, including agreements on a revival of the ancient Silk Road trade route and cooperation in peaceful nuclear energy.

Rouhani said the two countries had also agreed to cooperate closely to resolve the issue of "terrorism and extremism in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and Yemen".

It is the first state visit in 14 years by a Chinese head of state to Iran, and also Xi's first trip to the ancient country, whose friendship with China dates back to 2,000 years ago thanks to the Silk Road.

Both as ancient civilizations, China and Iran boast long history and splendid culture and have made important contribution to human progress, Xi said in written remarks upon arrival.

"Currently, China and Iran are faced with new development opportunities in their relations," Xi said. "China stands ready to work with Iran to seize the momentum and further elevate our relationship and practical cooperation, so as to usher in a new chapter for our ties featuring comprehensive, long-term and stable development."

Xi added that he looks forward to having an in-depth exchange of views with Iranian leaders on bilateral relations as well as global and regional issues of mutual concern, and working with them to formulate an ambitious blueprint for China-Iran cooperation and further deepen the friendship between the two nations.

China, Iran agree to expand ties
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani (2nd left) and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (left) meet with Chinese President Xi Jinpin g (2nd right) and his delegation on Jan 23, 2016 in the capital Tehran. (AFP Photo)

Xi is also scheduled to meet Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei during his stay in Tehran.

The two countries established diplomatic ties in 1971, and their relationship has since enjoyed sound and steady development.

Two-way trade jumped from tens of millions of US dollars in 1970s to US$51.8 billion in 2014, and China has been Iran's biggest trading partner for six consecutive years.

Xi's visit, Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Ming told reporters earlier this week, "will be a milestone that will usher in a new era of bilateral ties featuring comprehensive, long-term and stable development."

In an interview with Xinhua ahead of Xi's visit, Pang Sen, China's ambassador to Iran, pointed out that China and Iran, sharing a traditional friendship, neither have any problems left over from history nor have conflicts of interests in present days.

"To develop our friendly cooperative relationship is not only in line with the fundamental interests of both countries and peoples, but also conducive to the regional peace, stability and prosperity," he added.

Xi will conclude on Saturday night his five-day, three-nation tour of the Middle East, which has already taken him to Saudi Arabia and Egypt. It is Xi's first overseas visit this year and also his first trip to the region since he became Chinese president in 2013.

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