China, Iran boost military cooperation amid tensions with US

Iranian Armed forces chief of staff General Mohammad Bagheri (right) greets China's defence minister General Wei Fenghe during a welcome ceremony in Teheran, on April 27, 2022. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

TEHERAN (BLOOMBERG) - China and Iran agreed to step up military cooperation in a range of areas including exercises, in a sign that the two nations are moving somewhat closer amid lingering tensions with the United States.

Beijing and Teheran will work together on military training and exchange of knowledge, the semi-official Fars News Agency reported, citing the chief of staff of Iran's armed forces Mohammad Bagheri.

Chinese Defence Minister Wei Fenghe told Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi in a meeting on Wednesday (April 27) that the People's Liberation Army was willing to "making good use of cooperation mechanisms, push forward pragmatic cooperation and bring military ties to a higher level", the PLA Daily reported on Thursday.

Washington has been criticising China for failing to condemn Russia's war in Ukraine and for amplifying Moscow's disinformation efforts.

Mr Wei's trip also comes amid efforts to restore a 2015 deal that lifted sanctions on the Iranian economy and oil exports in return for caps on its atomic program.

Iran and the US are locked in a standoff over Washington's designation of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a foreign terrorist organisation.

Negotiations were paused last month after Russia inserted new conditions related to Western sanctions imposed on Moscow over its war on Ukraine. The Kremlin later backed down, leaving the dispute between Teheran and Washington as the major barrier to an agreement.

The deal to boost military ties "is emblematic of how close the Iranians and Chinese are getting in lots of different areas", said Mr Raffaello Pantucci, a senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. "It's something they are doing in the face of US sanctions."

Mr Wei arrived in Teheran on Wednesday after earlier visits to Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan, the official Xinhua News Agency said.

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