Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has urged “friends”, including China and Russia, to take “concrete action” to safeguard the 2015 nuclear deal following the United States‘s decision to tighten sanctions on Tehran after exiting the agreement last year.

During a meeting with his Chinese counterpart in Beijing on Friday, Zarif said: “Iran and China need to think together and work together about preserving a multilateral global order and avoiding a unilateral global order.”

Zarif’s meeting with State Councillor Wang Yi was part of an intense diplomatic effort to salvage the 2015 deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

The landmark pact, negotiated between Iran and six world powers, offered Tehran sanctions relief in return for curbs on its nuclear programme. But it increasingly appears to be in danger of unravelling with the US reinstating sanctions and moving to choke off Iran’s oil exports by scrapping waivers it had granted to big buyers of the country’s crude oil, including China.

US-Iran tensions escalated further last week when Washington deployed warships and bombers to the Middle East, citing unspecified threats from Tehran.

Wang told Zarif that China resolutely opposes the sanctions imposed by the US, according to a Chinese foreign ministry statement. He also said Beijing supported Tehran in safeguarding its legitimate rights and understood its situation.

Speaking before his meeting with Wang, Zarif said the international community has so far “mainly made statements instead of saving” the nuclear deal.

“If the international community and other JCPOA member countries, and our friends in the JCPOA like China and Russia, want to keep this achievement, it is required that they make sure the Iranian people enjoy the benefits of the JCPOA with concrete actions,” he said.

“The practical step is quite clear: Economic relations with Iran should be normalised. This is what the deal clearly addresses.”

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