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Flotilla makes first visit to Iranian port

Zhao Shengnan
Updated: Sep 22,2014 1:34 PM     China Daily

A Chinese flotilla docked in an Iranian port for the first time on Sept 20 as both China and Iran pledged to strengthen naval ties.

The Chinese missile destroyer Changchun and missile frigate Changzhou were guided by Iran’s frigate Alvand to the southern Iranian port city of Bandar Abbas, the PLA Daily reported.

The two Chinese warships are part of the 17th Chinese escort naval fleet, which just finished its mission in the Gulf of Aden and the waters off Somalia.

The Chinese flotilla came here for peace, and to strengthen understanding and naval exchanges, Huang Xinjian, commander of the fleet, said upon arrival.

Amir Hossein Azad, the commander of Iran’s First Naval Zone, said: “The voyage of the Chinese army’s fleet of warships for the first time in Persian Gulf waters is aimed at a joint preparation of Iran and China for establishing peace, stability, tranquility and multilateral and mutual cooperation,” according to Iran’s FARS News Agency.

During the five-day stay, Huang is scheduled to meet officials from the Iranian navy and Hormozgan province. Bandar Abbas is the capital of the province.

Both sides will also hold a series of activities, including deck receptions, open-house events on the warships, and sport activities such as soccer and pingpong.

Zhang Junshe, deputy director of the Naval Military Studies Research Institute, said Iran is an important country in the Gulf and Middle East region. Closer cooperation between the two countries would be conducive to the region’s peace and stability, he said.

The rare visit came a few days after the Iranian navy thwarted an attack by eight pirate speedboats, equipped with weapons, of a Chinese container-carrier ship in the waters of the Gulf of Aden, FARS News Agency reported.

The Chinese ship was traveling from Singapore to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, when it came under attack. After the Iranian navy’s intervention, it continued its voyage.

The visit also came months after Iranian Minister of Defense and Armed Forces Logistics Hossein Dehqan’s first visit to China, in May, since he took office.

When receiving Dehqan in Beijing, Vice-Chairman of China’s Central Military Commission Fan Changlong said China attaches importance to its relationship with the Iranian military and is willing to strengthen political trust and deepen pragmatic cooperation with Iran.

Both China and Iran have been involved in the escort mission since 2008.

The Iranian navy has been conducting anti-piracy patrols in the Gulf of Aden since Somali raiders hijacked the Iranian-chartered cargo ship, MV Delight, in 2008, off the coast of Yemen.

By August, the Chinese fleet had escorted more than 5,670 ships and successfully rescued or aided 60 ships from China and other countries in the Gulf of Aden and Somali waters.

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