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Iran, China sign controversial 25-year ‘strategic cooperation pact’

Xi Jinping speaks to the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Oct. 28, 2017. (Ma Zhancheng/Xinhua/Zuma Press/TNS)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

Iran and China signed a controversial long-term bilateral deal during a ceremony in Tehran on March 27.

The details of the agreement have not been disclosed, but it is believed to include Chinese investments in Iran’s energy and infrastructure sectors.

China is Iran’s top trading partner and a key market for Iranian crude exports, which have been severely curtailed by U.S. sanctions.

The deal was signed by Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and his Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi, who arrived in Tehran a day earlier.

State television described the agreement as a “25-year strategic cooperation pact.”

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Said Khatibzadeh said earlier on March 27 that the pact includes “political, strategic, and economic” components.

The deal also includes increased military and security cooperation between the two countries, according to a leaked draft of the deal.

Iranian officials have said that the pact was proposed in a January 2016 trip to Iran by Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has publicly backed the deal.

Iranians have accused officials of hiding details of the deal amid fears that Tehran may be giving too much away to Beijing.

Iran has in recent years increasingly reached out to China in the face of growing U.S. pressure to isolate Tehran.

The United States unilaterally pulled out of a 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers in 2018 under former President Donald Trump.

Trump pursued a policy of “maximum pressure” on Tehran over its nuclear and missile programs, as well as its support for regional proxies.

The deal was meant to provide relief for Iran from international sanctions in exchange for limitations on its nuclear program, which Iran says is strictly for civilian energy purposes.

U.S. President Joe Biden has signaled his readiness to revive the deal.