By staff and agency

Shinzo Abe plans to meet Iranian top officials in June

June 2, 2019 - 19:27

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe plans to visit Iran in June and is expected to meet with top Iranian officials.

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. Abe plans to travel to Iran from June 12 to 14. The visit will be the first by an incumbent Japanese prime minister since 1978.

NHK reported on May 27 that Japan’s government officials are making final adjustments for Abe’s planned visit to Iran.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi also confirmed last week that preparations are being made for Abe’s visit. 

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.

During his trip to Japan, Zarif said Iran was committed to its obligations under the international nuclear deal despite the U.S. withdrawal from the landmark agreement. He called the reimposition of sanctions “unacceptable”.

On May 8, Iran officially announced that its “strategic patience” has come to an end as the remaining parties to the JCPOA have failed to compensate for the sanctions against Iran by the Trump administration. 

In the first step, Iran announced that it stops selling stockpiles of enriched uranium and heavy water for 60 days. However, Iran warned if a conclusion is not reached in this time period, it will take other measures step by step and will accelerate its uranium enrichment activities.

Under the JCPOA, Iran’s stockpile of low enriched uranium is capped at 300kg and heavy water reserve at 130 tons.