China has become the latest country to say it will ignore the United States and continue to conduct business with Iran.
U.S. sanctions against Iran came into effect Tuesday and President Donald Trump has warned that countries who trade with Tehran will not be able to do business with the U.S. Trump also said he will expand the punitive measures in the coming weeks to include tougher ones related to oil production.
China has a growing relationship with Iran's energy industry and, according to a Reuters report Wednesday, has stated it will defend those business interests.
"China's commercial cooperation with Iran is open and transparent, reasonable and fair, not violating any United Nations Security Council resolutions," a government statement said, adding that "China's lawful rights should be protected."
According to Reuters data, China buys around $15 billion worth of crude oil from Iran each year and is Tehran's top energy customer. Chinese state companies CNPC and Sinopec have also invested billions of dollars to develop oil fields in Iran.
Earlier Wednesday, Turkish Energy Minister Fatih Donmez said his country would continue to buy gas from Iran.
The U.S. has re-imposed sanctions on Iran after it left the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (Iran nuclear deal) in May.
Trump followed through on the withdrawal despite attempts to persuade him otherwise by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron and U.K. Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson.
The Iran nuclear deal was an accord between Iran and the U.S., Russia, Britain, Germany, France, China and the European Union. It was an agreement to lift sanctions on Iran in exchange for the country stopping its program to develop more nuclear capability.
China's statement Wednesday followed Russia, which said Tuesday that it will do "everything necessary" to save the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and protect its economic interests with Tehran.
The EU has also warned that firms that stop doing business with Iran because of U.S. sanctions could in turn be sanctioned by the bloc.
The EU's foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini told reporters Tuesday that the EU was "doing its best to keep Iran in the deal."