China says Iran nuclear issue at 'critical point'

BEIJING (AP) — Developments surrounding Iran's nuclear program are at a “critical point” and lifting sanctions on the country is key to breaking the deadlock, China's Foreign Ministry said Wednesday.

Spokesperson Wang Wenbin’s comments came a day after Iran officially began restricting international inspections of its nuclear facilities in a bid to pressure European countries and the U.S. into lifting crippling economic sanctions and restoring the 2015 nuclear deal.

As a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council, China is a party to the agreement known as the JCPOA, while also maintaining friendly relations and close economic ties with Tehran.

That has long set China against sanctions, and Beijing worked with Germany, France, Britain and Russia to maintain the deal after former President Donald Trump’s decision to pull the U.S. unilaterally out in 2018.

The new administration of President Joe Biden has sought to reverse that decision, although Iran’s violations of the JCPOA and the move Tuesday to limit international inspections underscore how difficult that task is.

“The current situation on the Iranian nuclear issue is at a critical point, with both opportunities and challenges," Wang told reporters at a daily briefing.

“We have always believed that the return of the U.S. to the comprehensive agreement and the lifting of sanctions against Iran are the keys to breaking the deadlock in the Iranian nuclear issue," Wang said.