China's Xi Jinping says Iran president's death 'great loss'

China is a close partner of Iran, its largest trade partner, and a top buyer of its sanctioned oil.
China's President Xi Jinping with Iran counterpart Ebrahim Raisi
China's President Xi Jinping with Iran counterpart Ebrahim RaisiPhoto | AFP

BEIJING: China's President Xi Jinping on Monday paid tribute to Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, describing his "tragic death" in a helicopter crash as "a great loss to the Iranian people".

Raisi was declared dead on Monday after rescue teams found his crashed helicopter in a fog-shrouded western mountain region.

Xi sent "sincere condolences" to the Iran's first vice president, foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said at a press briefing.

"(Raisi's) tragic death is a great loss to the Iranian people, and the Chinese people have lost a good friend," Wang quoted Xi as saying.

China is a close partner of Iran, its largest trade partner, and a top buyer of its sanctioned oil.

According to Wang, Xi said that "President Raisi has made important contributions to maintaining Iran's security and stability, promoting national development and prosperity, and also made active efforts to consolidate and develop the China-Iran comprehensive strategic partnership".

China would offer "all necessary support and assistance" and "continue to support the Iranian government and people in safeguarding their independence, stability and development", he said.

Wang said China had also expressed "deep sorrow" at the death of Iran's Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, who was also on the helicopter.

The Iranian flag was at half-mast outside its embassy in Beijing, an AFP reporter saw.

Contact was lost with the aircraft carrying Raisi and others in East Azerbaijan province in northwest Iran on Sunday, reports said.

The president had earlier met Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliyev on their common border to inaugurate a dam project.

Iran and China have deepened trade ties in recent years, though Beijing's efforts to pull Tehran into its flagship Belt and Road Initiative infrastructure project have been complicated by sanctions.

The United States has repeatedly called on China to use its influence over Iran to manage tensions in the Middle East, which have been heightened by the Israel-Hamas war.

China has historically been sympathetic to the Palestinians, backing a two-state solution.

It has also used its diplomatic clout to broker a detente between Iran and long-time foe Saudi Arabia in 2023.

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