Don't open Pandora's box in Middle East, China warns

After meeting Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem in Beijing, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said China was very concerned about the situation in the Gulf and with Iran.
After meeting Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem in Beijing, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said China was very concerned about the situation in the Gulf and with Iran.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

BEIJING • The Chinese government's top diplomat warned yesterday that the world should not open a Pandora's box in the Middle East, as he denounced US pressure on Iran and called on Iran not to drop out of a landmark nuclear deal.

Fears of a confrontation between Iran and the United States have mounted since last Thursday, when two oil tankers were attacked in the Gulf of Oman.

The US blamed Iran for the attacks, more than a year after President Donald Trump withdrew from a 2015 Iran nuclear deal.

Speaking in Beijing after meeting Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem, Chinese State Councillor Wang Yi said that the US should not use "extreme pressure" to resolve issues with Iran.

He told reporters that China was "of course, very concerned" about the situation in the Gulf and with Iran, and called on all sides to ease tension and not head towards a clash.

"We call on all sides to remain rational and exercise restraint, and not take any escalatory actions that irritate regional tensions and not open a Pandora's box," said Mr Wang, who is also Foreign Minister.

"In particular, the US side should alter its extreme pressure methods," he added. "Any unilateral behaviour has no basis in international law. Not only will it not resolve the problem, but it will also create an even greater crisis."

 
 
 

Mr Wang also said the Iran nuclear deal was the only feasible way to resolve the nuclear issue and he urged Iran to be prudent.

"We understand that relevant parties may have different concerns but, first of all, the comprehensive nuclear deal should be properly implemented," he said.

At the same time, China hopes other parties would respect Iran's legitimate lawful rights and interests, he added.

China and Iran have close energy ties, and China has been angered by US threats against countries and companies, including Chinese firms, that violate US sanctions by importing Iranian oil.

China has had to walk a fine line as it has also been cultivating relations with Iran's regional rival, Saudi Arabia, the Asian giant's top oil supplier.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has already visited China twice this year.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has also visited Beijing this year.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 19, 2019, with the headline 'Don't open Pandora's box in Middle East, China warns'. Print Edition | Subscribe