Japanese PM meets Rouhani on mission to ease Iran-US tensions

TEHRAN: Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe held talks with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in Tehran on Wednesday during a rare diplomatic mission aimed at defusing tensions between the Islamic republic and Tokyo’s ally Washington.
Abe, the first Japanese prime minister to visit Iran in 41 years, was received by Rouhani at the Saadabad Palace where they began a closed-door meeting, a reporter said.
He is expected to meet Iran’s supreme leader Ali Khamenei on Thursday morning.
Addressing a cabinet meeting ahead of the visit, Rouhani said Iran’s leaders and people were united in their view that “the main culprit is America. Not a single individual doubts it.”
“The (US) pressure has reached its full strength,” he told the cabinet.
Tehran is locked in a bitter standoff with Washington after US President Donald Trump withdrew from a landmark 2015 nuclear deal in May last year.
Washington has since reimposed crippling unilateral sanctions — which have forced Japan to halt its once-substantial purchases of Iranian oil — and launched a military buildup in the Gulf.
“Amid concerns over growing tension in the Middle East and with the attention of the international community on the issue, Japan wishes to do its best towards peace and stability in the region,”
Abe told reporters before leaving for Tehran.
“Based on traditional friendly ties between Japan and Iran, I would like to have candid exchanges of opinions with President Rouhani and supreme leader Khamenei towards easing tensions,” he said.
Abe’s Foreign Minister Taro Kono was also in Iran where he met his counterpart Mohammad Javad
Zarif.
Japanese government officials said Abe would not present Tehran with a list of demands, or deliver a message from Washington, but instead wanted to play the role of neutral intermediary. — AFP