By staff and agency

Japan FM to tour Iran prior to Abe arrival

June 7, 2019

Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono will visit Iran prior to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s arrival, the Japan Times reported on Thursday.

According to a Japanese government source, he plans to hold talks with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, the newspaper said.

Reportedly, Abe will visit Tehran on June 12-14.

The visit will be the first by an incumbent Japanese prime minister since 1978.

According to Bloomberg, Abe plans to meet with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on June 12 and Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on June 13, the Mainichi reported.

The visit is aimed at helping encourage dialogue with the U.S. and ease tensions, according to the Mainichi.

During his talks with U.S. President Donald Trump in Tokyo on May 27, Abe reiterated his intention to act as an intermediary between the U.S. and Iran.

At a joint press conference with Trump, Abe said Japan “would like to do whatever it can. Japan and the U.S. should collaborate closely so that tensions surrounding Iran are lessened and do not result in armed conflict.”

Tensions have been rising between Tehran and Washington since the U.S. withdrew from the UN-endorsed nuclear agreement in May last year and ordered sanctions on Iran.

Tensions entered a new stage since April when the U.S. designated the IRGC (part of the Iranian military) as a terrorist organization, announced that it does no renew waivers for the eight major buyers of the Iranian oil, and started beefing up its military presence in the region, particularly in the Persian Gulf.

Japan was a major buyer of Iranian oil for decades before the sanctions.

Abe met with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in Tokyo on May 16.

“Japan is concerned about surging tensions surrounding the Middle East,” Abe said during the visit.

NA/PA

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