China: Iran deal will 'safeguard peace' in the Middle East

BEIJING (AFP) - China on Sunday welcomed a breakthrough deal with Iran to curb its nuclear programme in exchange for sanctions relief, saying the agreement with Teheran would "help safeguard peace and stability in the Middle East".

"This agreement will help to uphold the international nuclear non-proliferation system, (and) safeguard peace and stability in the Middle East," foreign minister Wang Yi said, according to a statement on the foreign ministry website.

It will also "help parties to begin to carry out normal exchanges with Iran, and will help provide a better life for the Iranian people," Wang added.

The foreign minister said the agreement followed "a decade of hard work, particularly over the last few days when we entered into the final phase of difficult negotiations".

China is one of the five UN Security Council committee members who along with Germany and Iran negotiated the deal for Teheran to limit uranium enrichment - the area that raises the most suspicions over Iran's alleged nuclear weapons drive - to low levels.

Beijing is keen to avoid instability in the Middle East, as it is heavily dependent on oil to power its fast-expanding economy.

It has also long called for issues in the region to be solved through diplomacy rather than military intervention.

Along with Russia, China has previously blocked efforts by Western nations at the UN to take a hard line over Syria.

Following the agreement over Iran's nuclear weapons, Wang praised the other countries involved in the negotiations.

"We also want to express appreciation towards the parties involved in the negotiation for showing flexibility and pragmatism," he said.

Meanwhile, Chinese state media hailed the deal as an "exhilarating result" of negotiations based on "sincerity and mutual respect".

"The ice-breaking result comes not as a surprise but a natural outcome of common wishes and hopes for a peaceful resolution shared by Iranian people and the international community as a whole," added the named commentary carried by state news agency Xinhua.

The commentary also said the agreement laid the "foundation" for further dialogue which could produce even more positive results.

But it warned: "The signing of an envisioned comprehensive agreement as well as the implementation of those accords already reached needs greater sincerity and mutual respect from all parties concerned."