Global partners should engage in diplomatic talks to solve the Iran deadlock as military action would have “devastating consequences” for the region, said Wu Hailong, the newly appointed Chinese ambassador to the EU.
This week, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton wrote to Iran's top nuclear negotiator, accepting an offer to meet to discuss Tehran's nuclear program.
“The best way forward is through diplomatic talk,” said Hailong, a seasoned diplomat who has represented China in many international organisations, including the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Speaking to a small group of journalists, Hailong argued that the issues remain unresolved to this day and sanctions have not delivered results.
“The United Nations has sanctioned Iran for many years," Hailong said. "Sanctions are not helpful."
The EU has banned oil imports from Iran and imposed new sanctions in January to push Teheran to return to the negotiating table.
The trade boycott followed a new round of measures adopted by the United States aimed at stymieing Tehran's nuclear programme.
“Using force would be disastrous,” said Hailong, adding that oil prices would soar from the current $107 a barrel. “If we were to launch an attack on Iran, we should be aware of the consequences considering Iran is largest oil producer in the world.”
The new Chinese ambassador also said that the international community should consider the size of Iran and its strategic position in a region that is already shattered by the Syrian unrest.
“Any attack on Iran would also have devastating consequences on Syria,” he said, stressing the EU and its global partners should use patience to restore international confidence that Iran's nuclear programme is peaceful.
“Wisdom is chasing the lesser of the evils,” Hailong said.
Although the ambassador did not say when he expected the talks to resume, he said negotiations would ease the pressure.
In a possible step towards greater cooperation, Iran said this week it would let UN nuclear investigators visit a military complex where they had been refused access to check intelligence suggesting Tehran has pursued explosives research relevant to nuclear weapons.
Western states are likely to tread cautiously, mindful of past accusations that Iran's willingness to talk has been a tool to buy time and not a path to agreement. But China seems genuinely believe in a positive outcome.
“By properly handling the situation, we will find a solution on the issue,” he said.