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Iran-China-Russia naval drills show broader commitment to secure vital waterways: FM Zarif

A handout photo shows a view of a Chinese People's Liberation Army Navy Surface Force Type 052D destroyer Xining during joint Iran-Russia-China naval drills in the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Oman on December 27, 2019. (Via AFP)

Iran says its joint naval drills with China and Russia in the Indian Ocean and the Sea of Oman reaffirm its resolve to secure vital waterways.

"Our joint military drills in Oman Sea/Indian Ocean w/ our Russian & Chinese partners make clear our broader commitment to secure vital waterways," Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said in a post on his official Twitter account on Friday.

Zarif's tweet came on the same day that Iran, Russia and China started four days of joint maritime exercise, dubbed as the "Marine Security Belt", in an area of 17,000 square kilometers which consist of "various tactical exercises", such as target practicing and rescuing ships from assault and incidents such as fires.

"Among the objectives of this exercise are improving the security of international maritime trade, countering maritime piracy and terrorism, exchanging information regarding rescue operations and operational and tactical experience," Second Rear Admiral Gholamreza Tahani said.

According to reports, Iran is taking part in the maneuvers with its Sahand and Alborz destroyers, the Kenarak and Tonb logistic warships, the Neyzeh missile boat and the Nazeri hospital ship.

The drills come at a time of heightened tensions since the United States in May last year withdrew from the landmark nuclear deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) signed between Iran and major world powers in 2015.

US President Donald Trump, a stern critic of the historic deal, unilaterally pulled Washington out of the JCPOA, and unleashed the “toughest ever” sanctions against the Islamic Republic in defiance of global criticism in an attempt to strangle the Iranian oil trade.

In response to the unilateral move, Tehran has so far rowed back on its nuclear commitments four times in compliance with Articles 26 and 36 of the JCPOA, but stressed that its retaliatory measures will be reversible as soon as Europe finds practical ways to shield the mutual trade from the US sanctions.

Elsewhere in his tweet, the top Iranian diplomat reiterated the Islamic Republic's preparedness to secure the Persian Gulf in cooperation with its littoral states, stressing the importance of the country's Hormuz Peace Endeavor.

"Iran has long stated its readiness to work w/our neighbors to secure Persian Gulf. #HOPE-Hormuz Peace Endeavour-is on table right now," Zarif posted.

In an address to the 74th session of the UN General Assembly on September 25, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani invited all countries that are affected by developments in the Persian Gulf to join the country’s initiative for the security of the strategic region.

He said the “Coalition of HOPE” aims to promote peace, stability, progress and prosperity of the littoral states and help achieve mutual understanding and establish peaceful and friendly relations among them.

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