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Iran's Zarif Insists Talks With China Are On Track For 'Strategic Pact'

China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi (R) shakes hands with Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif during their meeting at the Diaoyutai State Guest House in Beijing on December 31, 2019.

The Islamic Republic and China are holding talks on finalizing their 25-year "Cooperation Roadmap" Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif insisted on Tuesday, July 14.

Meanwhile, Zarif claimed that Beijing initially submitted a "draft" of the agreement in March 2020, based on an earlier copy presented by Iran.

The controversial "cooperation road-map" has already triggered a barrage of criticism among Iranians that the Islamic Republic is "selling the country to the Chinese."

Nonetheless, Beijing so far has been silent on the much-debated agreement.

In the meantime, Tabnak, a website close to the Islamic Republic Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has published an eighteen-page text of the draft, which has no details and contains general statements of optimal cooperation between the two countries.

The two sides are negotiating on having the two drafts finalized, Zarif asserted, noting that the document should then be ratified by the responsible bodies of the two countries.

Zarif also said that in a videoconference ten days ago, he told his Chinese counterpart that Iran was prepared for commencing the final negotiations over the issue.

While Zarif is under pressure to present "details" of the controversial "agreement," China has decided to leave the issue shrouded in mystery.

When asked about it by reporters last week, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, Zhao Lijian, suggested blandly, "China and Iran enjoy traditional friendship, and the two sides have been in communication on the development of bilateral relations."

Without any denial or confirmation of the issue, Zhao tacitly noted, Beijing stood ready to work with Tehran to "steadily advance practical cooperation."

Nevertheless, some Iranian analysts abroad have seen "hypocrisy" in the Islamic Republic's courtship of China.

"An Iranian regime whose revolutionary identity is premised on countering U.S. imperialism and Islamophobia is about to ratify its total economic and strategic dependency on a Chinese government that keeps over 1 million Muslims in re-education camps,” tweeted a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Karim Sajjadpour.

On the other hand, an award-winning veteran Iranian journalist, Amir Taheri, accused Tehran of "cooking-up" the whole issue.

"Chinese think-tanks with which we are in contact say they are puzzled by Tehran's decision to cook up a 'strategic alliance' document based on a routine end of visit communique dating back to 2016," the London-based journalist tweeted yesterday, July 13.