Chinese officials reportedly are pressuring Iran to rein in attacks by Iranian-backed Houthi rebels on commercial ships in the Red Sea or risk harming their business relations with Beijing.
Discussions about the ongoing attacks by the Yemeni group and trade have come up repeatedly during recent meetings in the two countries, four Iranian sources told Reuters. The news agency reports that China has been Iran’s biggest trade partner for the last decade and, according to data from trade analytics firm Kpler, it bought over 90% of the Islamic Republic’s crude oil exports last year.
"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'," one Iranian official briefed on the talks told Reuters.
When China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs was asked about the matter, it said "China is a sincere friend of the countries of the Middle East and is committed to promoting regional security and stability and seeking common development and prosperity."
"We firmly support Middle Eastern countries in strengthening their strategic independence and uniting and collaborating to resolve regional security issues," the ministry added, according to Reuters.
The U.S. is continuing to carry out what it describes as "self-defense" strikes against the Houthis.
On Wednesday, two Houthi anti-ship missiles that were being prepared to launch at commercial ships in the Southern Red Sea were destroyed by the U.S., officials told Fox News.
Meanwhile, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development is reporting that freight traffic going through the Suez Canal connected to the Red Sea has plunged by 45% since the Houthis started launching attacks.