China requests Iran to tackle Houthi attacks in Red Sea, expresses concerns over business implications

Israeli Navy missile boat in the Red Sea. [Photo: Wikimedia Commons]

Chinese has requested their Iranian counterparts, urging them to take action to quell attacks on ships in the Red Sea carried out by the Iran-backed Houthis, Reuters reported quoting sources familiar with the matter.

The message conveyed by China emphasises the potential risk to their business relations with Tehran if these attacks continue unchecked.

Quoitng four Iranian sources and a diplomat familiar with the matter, the news agency said, discussions regarding the attacks and the trade relationship between China and Iran unfolded during recent meetings in both Beijing and Tehran.

The Iranian sources, citing anonymity, declined to provide specific details about the timing or attendees of these meetings.

An Iranian official, briefed on the talks, shared with Reuters, “Basically, China says: ‘If our interests are harmed in any way, it will impact our business with Tehran. So tell the Houthis to show restraint.”

The attacks by the Houthis, ostensibly in support of Palestinians in Gaza, have disrupted a critical trade route between Asia and Europe, leading to increased shipping and insurance costs.

In Gaza, more than 25,000 Palestinians have lost their lives due to Israeli airstrikes. The Chinese officials, however, did not issue specific comments or threats about the potential consequences for Beijing’s trading relationship with Iran if Houthi attacks damaged Chinese interests, as per the four Iranian sources quoted by Reuters.

Although China has been Iran’s primary trading partner for the past decade, the trade relationship is imbalanced.

Chinese oil refiners purchased over 90% of Iran’s crude exports last year, taking advantage of heavy discounts and the absence of many other customers due to US sanctions. On the flip side, Iranian oil constitutes only 10% of China’s crude imports, and China has diversified its sources to mitigate potential shortfalls from other suppliers.

The Iranian sources revealed that Beijing has made it clear that any harm to vessels linked to China or adverse impacts on the country’s interests would be met with disappointment. The Chinese officials did not issue specific threats but underscored the importance of safeguarding their interests in the region.

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