Japanese PM to meet Iran’s Khamenei, Rouhani

Source: Japanese PM to meet Iran’s Khamenei, Rouhani – www.israelhayom.com

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will meet with Islamic republic’s supreme leader and its president as part of first visit by an incumbent Japanese premier to Iran in 41 years. Tokyo and Tehran have friendly ties and are set to mark the 90th anniversary of diplomatic relations this year.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is set to meet with Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Hassan Rouhani this week, in a visit aimed at easing regional tensions.

Abe’s trip, scheduled to take place from Wednesday to Friday, is the first by an incumbent Japanese premier to Iran in 41 years, although Tokyo and Tehran have friendly ties and are set to mark the 90th anniversary of diplomatic relations this year.

“Amid rising tensions in the Middle East, we plan to encourage Iran, a regional power, to move toward easing tensions at the top leaders’ meetings,” said Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, who announced the trip on Tuesday.

Abe had spoken to U.S. President Donald Trump by telephone to discuss Iran, Suga told a news conference.

On a four-day visit to Japan last month, Trump welcomed Abe’s help in dealing with Iran after public broadcaster NHK had said Japan’s leader was considering a trip to Tehran.

Abe is in a unique position, thanks to his close ties to Trump, cultivated since the U.S. leader took office, and Tokyo’s friendly relations with Iran, diplomatic experts said.

“Abe is trying to play the role of messenger and ease the tension,” said Toshihiro Nakayama, a Japan Fellow at the Wilson Center in Washington. “It is a bold move. I think it comes from confidence with his personal relations with Trump.”

Japan is keen for stability in the Middle East because it imports the bulk of its oil from the region, although it stopped buying Iranian oil this year because of U.S. sanctions.

Some experts played down prospects for the trip. “The object of the visit is not to mediate,” said former Japanese diplomat Kunihiko Miyake. “It’s basically bilateral issues, and if there is any additional business to do, we will do it carefully.”

The most Abe can probably achieve is to persuade Iran and the United States to resume direct talks, the experts said, adding that both sides may be seeking a way to avoid a confrontation while still saving face.

In his meeting with Maas, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani blamed the U.S. for the soaring tensions and called on the European signatories to the deal to “resist the economic war on Iran imposed by America.”

 

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