Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will visit Iran from June 12, the government said Thursday, the first trip to the country by an incumbent Japanese prime minister in over four decades. Abe apparently hopes to mediate between the United States and Iran, and encourage dialogue between them in a bid to ease tensions. He is expected to stress the importance of an international nuclear deal reached in 2015, even as the United States has withdrawn from it and Tehran said last month it would suspend some of its commitments under the accord. The government outlined the plan at a meeting of members of a Lower House steering committee. Abe is scheduled to return to Japan on June 14.
YOKOHAMA – Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Iranian leader Hassan Rouhani are planning to meet in late September at the United Nations General Assembly in New York, amid soaring tensions between Washington and Tehran. The news came as Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said the same day that his country "is not hoping tensions rise further" in the Middle East due to the standoff with the U.S. over the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. At the outset of a meeting with Abe in Yokohama, Zarif said "Iran welcomes the Japanese government's role (in trying) to ease tensions in the Middle East." The Japanese leader said "Japan will persistently continue our diplomatic efforts to deal with rising tensions in the Middle East and stabilize the current situation." The meeting follows Zarif's visit Sunday to Biarritz, the venue of a Group of Seven summit in France, where he talked about the issue with French President Emmanuel Macron.
As leader of a country that is a close ally of the United States and also has a long friendship with Iran, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is likely to have his skills tested as a mediator between Washington and Tehran amid rising tensions between them. "Japan is concerned about surging tensions surrounding the Middle East," Abe told Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif during their meeting at the Prime Minister's Office in Tokyo on May 16, calling on Iran to refrain from provoking the United States and defuse tensions. Zarif visited Japan in a hurry, ahead of U.S. President Donald Trump's four-day trip to the country from Saturday. The Trump administration, which views Iran as an enemy and has imposed economic sanctions on the country, ramped up pressure on Tehran this month by dispatching an aircraft carrier strike group and strategic bombers to the Middle East. Iran countered by announcing its intention to suspend some of its obligations under a 2015 nuclear deal and threatened to close off the Strait of Hormuz, a key channel for global crude oil transportation.
Japan is considering offering medical aid to Iran when Prime Minister Shinzo Abe meets with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly later this month, diplomatic sources said Sunday. Abe is expected to offer assistance such as training for medical professionals during his meeting with Rouhani in New York, following requests for such support from the Iranian side, the sources said. Tokyo believes medical assistance for Iran would not breach U.S. sanctions against the Middle Eastern country given that humanitarian supplies are exempted from its sanctions list, they said. After Abe and Rouhani agreed on Japanese assistance in the fields of medicine and disaster prevention during their talks last year in New York on the fringes of the U.N. meeting, Iranian officials made repeated requests for medical aid, including the supply of advanced equipment, the sources said. The Japanese government will likely be cautious about providing such equipment as Washington is concerned that Iran could divert technology to military uses, the sources said.
The United States has shown approval toward Japan's plan to have Iranian President Hassan Rouhani visit the country, diplomatic sources said Saturday, as Tehran is seeking to break a deadlock over a nuclear deal with world powers. Washington has also urged Tokyo to share the outcome of a summit between Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Rouhani, the sources said. A senior U.S. official has relayed the message to Japan. Japanese and Iranian officials are arranging for Rouhani to visit around Dec. 20, according to the sources. If realized, it will be the first visit by an Iranian president since Mohammad Khatami in October 2000.