Iran, China underline cooperation in virus battle
EU Council presidency condemns US bans
President Hassan Rouhani on Tuesday decried the United States for “tightening illegal sanctions” on Iran as the country is grappling with the novel coronavirus outbreak.
“As we are witnessing an epidemic of coronavirus in the world, unfortunately, the US has tightened illegal sanctions against the Iranian nation and in addition to violating international law,… it even prevents the exchange of medical goods with Iran,” Rouhani told his South African counterpart Cyril Ramaphosa during a phone conversation.
Rouhani said Iran expected South Africa, as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council, to “oppose US unilateralism and illegal sanctions against Iran” at the top body and other international organizations.
Ramaphosa said South Africa is “fully aware of the US unfair and illegal actions” against Iran and will continue to support the Islamic Republic.
He said it is not the time to “cause trouble for nations by imposing sanctions and piling up pressure” on them.
“Now is the time to work together against the common enemy (the coronavirus),” Ramaphosa said.
Cooperation on coronavirus fight
Rouhani and Chinese President Xi Jinping also talked on the phone, emphasizing the need to cooperate in the battle against the new coronavirus outbreak and expand trade ties.
Rouhani on Monday asked Xi for help in ending US sanctions.
He hailed the Chinese government's stance on the "cruel" US sanctions and said, "The world is currently facing a situation, under which we all need to help one other, but some parties are pressing ahead with their illegal and inhumane sanctions."
Rouhani expressed hope that collective cooperation and resistance of countries such as China would lead to the establishment of a world free of sanctions.
The US reimposed unilateral sanctions against Iran in May 2018 after withdrawing from a nuclear agreement among Tehran and six world powers, which has been endorsed by the United Nations Security Council resolution.
Washington alleges that it has exempted foodstuffs and medicine from the bans. Tehran roundly rejects the claim.
The US has also refused to lift its sanctions amid the viral coronavirus pandemic, which has complicated Iran's battle against the outbreak.
Iran is one of the West Asian countries hardest hit by the pandemic. The death toll from COVID-19 in Iran has risen to 5,877 and the total number of diagnosed cases of new coronavirus has reached 92,584.
Rouhani also said US’ interventionist moves undermine security and stability in the Persian Gulf.
He highlighted interventionist behavior of the United States in the region, describing them as detrimental to peace, security and stability in West Asia.
“Security of the region and waterways is of high importance to Iran, but unfortunately, high-risk behavior on the part of the US can undermine stability in the Persian Gulf region,” Iran's president said.
The Chinese president, for his part, denounced US insistence on continuation of sanctions and maximum pressure against Iran, saying that some countries look to make political gains out of the current conditions while China is ready to implement international regulations.
Xi also lauded Iran's help with Beijing’s fight against coronavirus pandemic and expressed his country’s readiness to continue assisting Iran in its struggle against COVID-19.
The Chinese president said reduction of mortality and morbidity resulting from the coronavirus in Iran showed that the country has chosen the right treatment protocols and implemented them meticulously.
Rouhani on Monday also spoke on the phone with the Croatian president whose country holds the rotating presidency of the EU Council.
Zoran Milanovic lashed out at the United States for its increased pressure and sanctions against the Islamic Republic of Iran amid the coronavirus outbreak.
Milanovic slammed as “inhumane” the increase of US sanctions and pressure on Iran in such a difficult situation.
Rouhani, in turn, urged Europe to take a tougher stance toward the US unilateralism.
Blasting the unlawful, irrational behavior of the United States – including its withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal and the sanctions and maximum pressure – President Rouhani said the continuation of such behavior is totally “inhumane”.
Iran expects European countries to act against such behavior and take a tough stance, Rouhani added.
Press TV and Reuters contributed to this story.