EghtesadOnline: In what is being called a major geostrategic initiative, China on Sunday inaugurated the two-day Belt and Road Summit in Beijing.
The event was presented as Chinese President Xi Jinping’s signature foreign policy project known as “The Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road”, also known as Belt and Road Initiative or One Belt, One Road, which aims to connect Asia, Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
The scheme involves 65 countries, which together account for one-third of global GDP and 60% of the world’s population, or 4.5 billion people, according to Oxford Economics.
The summit was attended by 29 heads of state and governments. Iran sent Minister of Economy Ali Tayyebnia to represent the country, Financial Tribune reported.
Xi pledged $124 billion on Sunday for his new Silk Road plan to forge a path of peace, inclusiveness and free trade, and called for the abandonment of old models based on rivalry and diplomatic power games, Reuters reported.
“We should build an open platform of cooperation and uphold and grow an open world economy,” he said in an inaugural address.
In an interview with Xinhua news agency, Iranian envoy to the United Nations, Gholamali Khoshrou, praised the Belt and Road Initiative, saying it is good for Iran, the Middle East and the rest of the world.
“The initiative would also dramatically boost the implementation of the UN Sustainable Development Goals,” said Khoshrou, citing the initiative’s characteristic of connectivity.
Sustainable Development Goals, enshrined in “Transforming Our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development” is a set of 17 global goals with 169 targets. It is spearheaded by the United Nations through a deliberative process involving 193 member states, as well as global civil society.
Connectivity Benefits All
“China is a great power, but this initiative is not based on interference, and not based on colonialism,” said the Iranian ambassador, “it is based on mutual benefit.”
Having visited China many times, Khoshrou said he believes the Belt and Road Initiative would benefit all the countries involved.
“If we look in a comprehensive manner, it should be science and technology, investment, trade and people-to-people relationship–all these benefit all countries in one way or another,” he said.
“We are living in a world that is so interconnected, we need this connectivity” offered by the Belt and Road Initiative, said the Iranian ambassador.
“Because in the era of globalization, no country is isolated and no country can have walls around itself,” he explained.
Emphasizing that Iran was a very important country on the ancient Silk Road and is also a very important country in the Belt and Road Initiative, the ambassador said the country takes an important strategic position by connecting the East with the West, linking Asia to Europe.
“This connectivity brings Iran development, prosperity and jobs,” he said.
Speaking about the initiative-based interaction between China and Iran, the ambassador said, “This can be a good solution for both sides. Iran can benefit from this interaction, which may be in different fields, such as energy, transportation, science and technology and investment.”
Khoshrou stressed that the two countries should strengthen cooperation in the energy sector so as to make the initiative more meaningful and constructive.
Statistics show that more than half of China’s total imports from Iran are oil and the rest are mineral and chemical products.
“Energy is the advantage of Iran and China has many advantages like its huge market, so we will exchange these advantages in a way that is beneficial for both sides,” he said.
Highlighting poverty, underdevelopment, foreign intervention and other issues as major causes for tensions and turmoil in the Middle East, Khoshrou stressed that the Belt and Road Initiative “would help reduce tensions in the Middle East through economic development, economic cooperation and job creation.”
“We need (the initiative) for development, for trade and for investment, and we need security. China can play a role through this cooperation,” he said.
The ambassador noted that the initiative is “not only good for the Middle East”, but also helps fight terrorism around the world”.
“We are facing an international terrorism network. We need international cooperation” to develop economy and uproot terrorism, he added.
The initiative can help reduce these tensions “through cooperation and development”.
“I look at the initiative in a more comprehensive way, and in cultural, economic and political ways. It will surely bring peace and development to the world,” he said.
The envoy also said if all countries take it seriously, everybody will benefit from it.
Speaking of the benefits that the initiative will bring to the UN Sustainable Development Goals, Khoshrou said it can strengthen the 2030 development goals of the United Nations, as the initiative can improve the economic situation in many poor areas if economic projects benefit all.