China, Iran ministers meet, criticize 'bullying practices'

China's foreign minister has criticized international "bullying practices" in a meeting with his Iranian counterpart

Wang Yi reaffirmed the strength of bilateral relations in opening remarks at the beginning of talks with Mohammad Javad Zarif.

“We need to stand together against unilateralism and bullying practices," Wang said.

China was a signatory to the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran and has strongly criticized the U.S. for abandoning it in favor of a campaign of heightened diplomatic and economic pressure.

Without directly mentioning the U.S., Wang said China and Iran would stand up for their national interests as well as “uphold multilateralism and norms governing international relations."

Zarif responded that the two countries were united in “our common effort to fight unilateralism and to promote multilateralism" in 2020.

Since then, Tehran has slowly inched toward ceasing its own compliance with the terms of the deal, including launching new operations at a heavy water nuclear reactor.

Iran's moves have been condemned by Western governments as unwelcome and escalating tensions in the region, while Russia and China have repeatedly blamed the U.S. China has also sharpened its rhetoric against Washington amid an ongoing trade war between the sides and U.S. criticism of China's human rights record and policies in Hong Kong and the traditionally Muslim northwestern region of Xinjiang.

The four-day naval exercise, launched from the southeastern port city of Chahbahar in the Gulf of Oman on Friday, underscores the informal alliance among China, Iran and Russia in the face of Trump's moves to withdraw the U.S. from international agreements.

At a daily briefing Tuesday afternoon, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said China would work to maintain the 2015 agreement and accused the U.S. of having “shirked its due international obligations, and imposed extreme pressure on Iran."

“This is the root cause of the current tension in the Iranian nuclear issue," Geng said. “We hope that all participants in the agreement will adhere to the correct direction, withstand external pressures, resolve differences through dialogue and negotiation, and continue to maintain and implement the comprehensive agreement."