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China says U.S. ‘needs’ to respond ‘positively’ to Iran’s goodwill over nuke deal

China Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin. (People's Republic of China)
December 14, 2022

A spokesman for China said on Wednesday that the U.S. “needs” to respond “positively” to the “goodwill and flexibility” that Iran has recently shown toward reviving a landmark deal to stop its nuclear program, even as the country cracks down with lethal force against nationwide protests.

During a press conference Wednesday, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Wang Wenbin said that nuclear negotiations would hit a “dead end” if they were influenced by “other issues” or if more sanctions and pressure were applied on Iran.

He said Iran “has recently shown goodwill and flexibility on some outstanding issues of the negotiations.”

“The U.S. needs to respond to that positively and find ways to work with Iran,” he said. “The other parties also need to work together and take positive and constructive steps to create a favorable atmosphere for the negotiations.”

Wang also said at the press conference that China “maintains friendly relations” with Iran and that “the domestic situation in Iran is its internal affair, and we will not comment on it.” 

Under the 2015 deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, Iran had agreed to largely halt its nuclear weapons program in exchange for billions of dollars in sanctions relief. The deal was essentially scrapped by President Donald Trump, who did not fulfill a promise to replace it.

While countries, including Iran, said at the time the deal would remain in effect, Iran is expanding its uranium enrichment in violation of its terms, according to NBC News.

It was a goal of President Joe Biden’s administration to renegotiate the Iran deal. But that has been complicated by the country’s violent crackdowns on ongoing nationwide protests, which have the administration second-guessing sanctions relief, the Associated Press reported.

The Biden administration has been more vocal on the protests. Last month, Biden said during a speech that “We’re going to free Iran,” which followed an earlier official statement condemning violent crackdowns.

On Monday, the European Union, one of the parties to the nuclear deal, put new sanctions on Iran over drones supplied to Russia for its war in Ukraine.