Soleimani's killing: China tells Iran foreign minister that US should stop 'abusing' use of force

Updated 04 Jan 2020

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Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, left, and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi shake hands during their meeting at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing Tuesday, February 19, 2019. — AFP
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, left, and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi shake hands during their meeting at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing Tuesday, February 19, 2019. — AFP

The United States should not “abuse force” and instead seek solutions through dialogue, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said during a call with his Iranian counterpart on Saturday.

“The dangerous US military operation violates the basic norms of international relations and will aggravate regional tensions and turbulence,” Wang told Javad Zarif according to a statement by the Chinese foreign ministry, referring to the killing in Iraq on Friday of top Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani.

A US drone strike killed Soleimani — head of the Quds Force, Iran's foreign operations arm — before dawn on Friday in Baghdad, an attack that has sparked fears of a regional war between Washington and Tehran.

Iran promised “severe revenge” in response, as a number of nations — including China — urged restraint.

“China opposes the use of force in international relations. There is no way out for military means, nor for extreme pressure,” Wang said in his Saturday call with Zarif, according to the ministry.

China, a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, is a key partner of Tehran and major buyer of Iranian oil.

Iran, China and Russia held joint naval drills in the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Oman last week and the Iranian foreign minister visited Beijing earlier this week.

China and Russia are also parties to the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, from which US President Donald Trump withdrew in May last year.

France urges Iran to stick with nuclear accord

Meanwhile, France urged Tehran on Saturday to stick with the landmark nuclear accord at risk of falling apart.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said he had discussed the issue with his Chinese and German colleagues, hoping to avoid escalation of an already intense stand-off between Iran and the United States.

“France fully shares with Germany the central objective of de-escalation and preservation of the Vienna (nuclear) accord,” Le Drian said in a statement.

With China, “we in particular noted our agreement... to urge Iran to avoid any new violation of the Vienna accord,” he added.

Tehran recently announced that it would take a further step away from the accord in early January and this was widely expected to be announced on Monday.

The European Union, which helped broker the 2015 deal, has been trying to keep the accord alive despite the US withdrawal, but analysts say that now looks increasingly unlikely after the US killed Maj Gen Soleimani, a key Iranian figure.

Zarif discusses Iran general's killing with Qatar counterpart

Meanwhile, Zarif hosted his Qatari counterpart on Saturday for talks in Tehran amid escalating tensions.

Zarif and Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani discussed “the new situation in Iraq and the assassination of General haj Qasem Soleimani” as well as regional and international issues, Iran's foreign ministry said in a statement.

In his meeting with the Qatari foreign minister, Zarif called the US attack a “terrorist act” that led to the “martyrdom” of the commander.

“Iran does not want tension in the region, and it is the presence and interference of foreign forces that cause instability, insecurity and increased tension in our sensitive region,” he said.

According to Iran's foreign ministry, Thani said the situation in the region was sensitive and concerning. He called for a peaceful solution to be found leading to de-escalation.

Iran's President Hassan Rouhani also met with the Qatari foreign minister.

Qatar, a key US ally in the region, is home to Washington's largest military base in the Middle East.

Its relationship with Shia-dominated Iran, seen as the major rival to Sunni-ruled Saudi Arabia in the region, is one of the major factors underpinning a crisis between Qatar and its former allies.

Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt all cut ties with Qatar in 2017, accusing Doha of backing extremism and fostering ties with Iran, charges that Qatar denies.