16 Apr 2024, 09:39

China's top diplomat Wang holds call with Iranian counterpart

BEIJING, April 16, 2024 (BSS/AFP) - China's foreign minister held phone discussions with his Iranian counterpart, Beijing state media said Tuesday, reporting that Iran said it was "willing to exercise restraint" after its first-ever attack on Israel's territory.

Israel has vowed to respond to the unprecedented Iranian missile and drone strikes over the weekend, which have prompted appeals for de-escalation by world leaders fearing wider conflict.

China is a close partner of Iran, its largest trade partner, and a top buyer of its sanctioned oil.

The United States has repeatedly made public appeals for China to use its influence over Tehran to manage tensions in the region, which are currently turbocharged over the Israel-Hamas conflict.

During the call, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian briefed Wang Yi on the April 1 attack on a consular annex of the Iranian embassy in the Syrian capital Damascus, which Tehran says prompted its aerial assault, Beijing's state news agency Xinhua said.

Amir-Abdollahian told Wang that the United Nations Security Council "did not make a necessary response to this attack" and that "Iran has the right to self-defence in response to the violation of its sovereignty", according to a readout.

Amir-Abdollahian said Iran was "willing to exercise restraint" and had no intention of further escalating tensions, adding the current regional situation was "very sensitive".

Wang said China "strongly condemns and firmly opposes the attack" on the Iranian consular annex, Xinhua reported, and regards it as a "serious violation of international law and unacceptable".

The readout said China noted Iran's statement that, in response, it had taken limited action in "self-defence".

"China appreciates Iran's stress on not targeting regional and neighbouring countries as well as its reiteration on continuously pursuing a good-neighbourly and friendly policy," Xinhua quoted Wang as saying.

"It is believed that Iran can handle the situation well and spare the region further turmoil while safeguarding its own sovereignty and dignity."

Tehran's foreign ministry readout said Amir-Abdollahian briefed Wang on Iran's "legitimate action" and "warned the White House" that further attacks on Iran's interests or security would invite a "decisive, immediate and extensive" response.

- 'Spillover effect' -

The foreign ministers discussed the Israel-Hamas conflict in the call, with Wang calling the current situation a "spillover effect of the escalating conflict in Gaza", according to Xinhua.

China, historically sympathetic to the Palestinian cause, has been calling for a ceasefire in Gaza since the war began when Hamas militants attacked Israel on October 7.

That attack resulted in the deaths of 1,170 people in Israel, mostly civilians, according to Israeli figures.

Israel's retaliatory offensive has killed at least 33,797 people in Gaza, mostly women and children, according to the health ministry in the Hamas-run territory.

"China is willing to maintain communication with the Iranian side and jointly push for a comprehensive, just and lasting settlement of the Palestinian issue," Wang said according to Xinhua.

Wang also held talks with his Saudi counterpart on Monday, the news agency said.

The two foreign ministers agreed to work together to avoid further escalation in the Middle East, it said.

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