WORLD Iran's Raisi backs nuclear talks

WORLD

Iran's Raisi backs nuclear talks

China Daily Global

10:47, June 23, 2021

Iran's President-elect Ebrahim Raisi attends his first news conference on Monday in Teheran, Iran, after his election victory was announced on Saturday. Raisi said that the United States must lift all "unjust sanctions" on Iran and Europe must abide by its commitments under the 2015 nuclear agreement. (Photo: Agencies)

Iranian President-elect Ebrahim Raisi has backed talks between Iran and six world powers to revive a 2015 nuclear deal, but rejected meeting with United States President Joe Biden.

In his first news conference since winning the presidential election on Friday, Raisi said on Monday that his foreign policy priority would be improving ties with Iran's Gulf Arab neighbors, while calling on Saudi Arabia to halt its intervention in Yemen.

President Xi Jinping sent a congratulatory message to Raisi on Monday, noting that China and Iran are comprehensive strategic partners, and that this year marks the 50th anniversary of the establishment of their diplomatic relations.

In his congratulatory message, President Xi also noted the great emphasis placed on developing the China-Iran relationship, saying that he is willing to work with Raisi to strengthen bilateral strategic communication, reinforce political mutual trust, expand and deepen win-win cooperation in various areas, and bring further benefits to both countries and their peoples.

China and Iran have witnessed constant development of their political mutual trust as well as fruitful results of pragmatic cooperation since the start of bilateral diplomatic relations in 1971.

The two governments signed a memorandum of understanding in 2016 on jointly promoting the Belt and Road Initiative.

During State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi's visit to Iran in March, the two sides signed the landmark 25-year comprehensive cooperation agreement.

"China-Iran friendship will certainly continue to follow the direction defined by leaders of the two countries, stand on a new historical starting point and open an exciting new chapter," Chang Hua, Chinese ambassador to Iran, said in an interview with Iranian media in May.

Raisi, 60, a critic of the West, will take over from Hassan Rouhani on Aug 3 as Iran seeks to salvage the nuclear deal and be rid of US sanctions that have crippled the Iranian economy.

"We support the negotiations that guarantee our national interests.…America should immediately return to the deal and fulfill its obligations under the deal," said Raisi, who personally is also under US sanctions.

Negotiations have been underway in Vienna since April to work out how Iran and the US can both return to compliance with the nuclear pact, which Washington abandoned in 2018 under the administration of former president Donald Trump before reimposing sanctions on Iran.

Teheran has long denied having any ambitions of developing nuclear weapons.

Raisi said Iran's foreign policy would not be limited to the nuclear deal, adding that "all US sanctions must be lifted and verified by Teheran".

Asked whether he would meet with Biden if the sanctions were lifted, Raisi replied, "No."

The White House downplayed Raisi's influence, saying no meeting between Biden and Raisi was planned, adding that Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has the final say on all major policies.

"We don't currently have any diplomatic relations with Iran or any plans to meet at the leader level," White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters. "Our view is that the decision-maker here is the supreme leader."

In his comments on Monday, Raisi also brushed aside US calls for Iran to agree to discussions on expanding the initial nuclear deal to include Iran's ballistic missile program and its support for some regional groups. "It's nonnegotiable," he said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin sent a message on Saturday congratulating Raisi on his victory.

"Relations between our countries are traditionally friendly and good-neighborly," Putin said in his message, according to the Kremlin. "I hope that your activities in this high post will contribute to the further development of constructive bilateral cooperation in various directions, as well as to the partnership in international affairs. This fully meets the interests of the Russian and Iranian peoples, and goes in line with the strengthening of regional security and stability."

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad wished Raisi success "for the good and interest of the steadfast Iranian people in the face of all schemes and pressures that aim to break their will and undermine their independent decisions".

Lebanese President Michel Aoun sent a congratulatory message on Monday to Raisi, wishing him success in assuming his new responsibilities and highlighting the friendly relations between Lebanon and Iran.

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