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Syria, Iran condemn Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan

China is a close ally of both countries but has also made economic inroads recently with US partners in the Middle East.
Annabelle Chih/Getty Images

Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan is drawing reactions in the Middle East. 

What happened: The California Democrat and speaker of the House of Representatives traveled today to the Asian island claimed by the People’s Republic of China. A longtime critic of China, Pelosi tweeted that the visit demonstrates the United States’ “unwavering commitment to supporting Taiwan’s vibrant Democracy.” 

Modern Taiwan was founded after World War II when nationalist forces fled to the island from mainland China, having lost the civil war to the communists. The communist side created the People’s Republic of China, which rules mainland China today. Taiwan refers to itself as the Republic of China, and is not officially recognized by most countries. 

Syria’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs promptly condemned Pelosi’s visit, calling it a "an act of hostility which doesn’t match with the international law, and doesn’t respect the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of the People’s Republic of China,” according to the state-run news outlet SANA. 

“Syria recognizes only one China,” the ministry added. 

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Nasser Kanaani reacted similarly. He criticized Pelosi’s visit and reiterated Iran’s support for a “One China” policy, the official Islamic Republic News Agency reported. 

Notably, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and Chinese President Xi Jinping spoke on the phone Friday. The two discussed improving bilateral relations as well as US policy in Asia, according to the IRNA. 

The Palestinian Presidency also expressed support today for China's territorial integrity and unity. The presidency called for a halt to any actions contrary to a One China policy, the Palestinian Authority's WAFA news outlet reported

Why it matters: China is aligned with both Iran and Syria. Last year, China and Iran signed a $400 billion, 25-year partnership agreement. The results are already showing. Iran’s trade with China grew significantly during the first half of 2022. 

Syria joined China’s Belt and Road Initiative in January. China has also supported Syria at the United Nations, vetoing aid crossings into rebel territory, for example. 

Iran and Syria have contentious relations with the United States, making it no surprise that they maintain warm relations with Beijing. However, China’s ties to US allies in the Middle East are also improving. In March, Saudi Aramco finalized a deal to build a refinery in China. In February, China sold fighter jets to the United Arab Emirates. Last year, a Chinese-run port opened in Israel. 

China’s focus in the region is primarily on economic partnerships, as opposed to security cooperation, economist Howard J. Shatz wrote for Al-Monitor Pro in June. 

Know more: The Biden administration has not explicitly endorsed Pelosi's trip, but a US military aircraft brought Pelosi to Taiwan. Pelosi plans to meet with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen tomorrow. Chinese military planes flew close to Taiwanese territory in response to her visit, Reuters reported.

The United States does not technically recognize Taiwan diplomatically, but enjoys good relations with the country. Pelosi’s visit followed former President Donald Trump signing the Taiwan Travel Act in 2018, which allows high-level American officials to visit Taiwan. 

Update: On Aug. 4, Qatar's Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement calling on all parties to "avoid escalation" with regards to Taiwan. The ministry added that it adheres to a "One China principle" and that it "recognizes the important and pivotal roles" both the US and China play in global security. 

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