Saudi Arabia says its oil tankers were attacked Sunday off the coast of UAE port city of Fujairah.; In this Friday, May 10, 2019 photo released by the U.S. Navy, logistics specialists attach cargo to an MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopter on the flight deck of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln in the Persian Gulf. The aircraft carrier strike group is being deployed to the Persian Gulf to counter an alleged but still-unspecified threat from Iran. DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – The Latest on developments in the Persian Gulf region and elsewhere in the Mideast amid heightened tensions between the U.S. and Iran (all times local): The Qatar-funded satellite news broadcaster Al-Jazeera says that Doha is trying to "defuse escalating tensions" across the Persian Gulf. Al-Jazeera cited an anonymous official on Wednesday night as saying that Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani had traveled to Tehran in recent days to speak with his Iranian counterpart, Mohammad Javad Zarif.
Iran's foreign minister said Thursday he is not interested in negotiating with the United States after it pulled out of a 2015 nuclear deal and reinstated stifling economic sanctions on Tehran. "No, there is no possibility for negotiations," Mohammad Javad Zarif answered when asked in an interview with Kyodo News and other Japanese news outlets in Tokyo whether he would be open to holding bilateral talks aimed at easing tensions, including discussions of a proposed prisoner swap. Zarif had said as recently as April that he was willing to exchange Iranian prisoners in the United States, Germany and Australia held on "phony" charges with foreign prisoners in Iran. But Zarif said such a deal was no longer on the table because the United States had set unspecified preconditions. "(The United States) is not in a position to impose preconditions on Iran," he said.
Iran accused the United States Thursday of an "unacceptable" escalation of tensions and said Tehran was showing "maximum restraint" despite Washington's withdrawal from a nuclear deal with world powers. Tensions were already high after President Donald Trump walked away a year ago from the accord, which eased international sanctions in return for curbs on Iran's nuclear program. But tensions have ratcheted up, with the U.S. deploying an aircraft carrier group and B-52 bombers to the Gulf over alleged threats from Iran. "The escalation by the United States is unacceptable," Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said in Tokyo, where he is holding talks with Japanese officials. "We exercise maximum restraint … in spite of the fact that the United States withdrew from JCPOA last May," Zarif said earlier, referring to the agreement on Tehran's nuclear program, which is known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida said Japan has decided to offer Iran around €2.05 million ($2.2 million) for nuclear safety initiatives to help the Middle Eastern state implement its historic nuclear deal with the West. "We agreed that bilateral relations are steadily making progress in a wide range of areas, including on cooperation for the steady implementation of the nuclear agreement," Kishida told a joint news conference in Tokyo on Wednesday after talks with Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif. Zarif said at the outset of the meeting, which was open to the media, that he welcomed Japan's "constructive contribution" that "strongly pushes the implementation" of the nuclear agreement. The move comes amid uncertainty over the agreement's future following the election of Donald Trump as U.S. president. During the campaign, Trump said that if elected, his "number one priority" as president would be to "dismantle the disastrous deal with Iran," which was spearheaded by President Barack Obama.
SINGAPORE – Japan has conveyed its support to Iran for the Middle Eastern country's efforts to implement an international nuclear deal despite the withdrawal of the United States, a Japanese official said Thursday. During his talks with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in Singapore, Foreign Minister Taro Kono reiterated that Tokyo continues to support the 2015 nuclear agreement reached by Iran and six major powers including Washington, the official said. Kono and Zarif met on the sidelines of a series of Association of Southeast Asian Nations gatherings in the city-state, the official said in a briefing. In May, U.S. President Donald Trump formally announced his country's withdrawal from the accord, advocating "the highest level of economic sanction" against Iran, which he called "the leading state sponsor of terror." Under the deal struck between Iran and six countries -- the U.K., China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States under Trump's predecessor Barack Obama -- Tehran agreed to curb its nuclear activities in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions.