The Japanese prime minister is set to meet Iranian President Rouhani tonight, and Ayatollah Khamenei tomorrow. Before his trip, he secured the support of key allies: Trump, Netanyahu, and the crown princes of Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi. For Abe, “Japan wants to play a role as much as it can".
Tokyo (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe left Tokyo this morning for a two-day visit to Tehran, saying he wants to act as a mediator between Iran and the United States and hold candid talks with Iranian leaders to secure stability in the Middle East.
"There are concerns over rising tensions in the Middle East. While the situation attracts the attention of the international community, for peace and stability in the region, Japan wants to play a role as much as it can," Abe told reporters at Tokyo's Haneda airport before his departure. "To ease tensions, I'd like to have a frank exchange of views," he added.
Abe's itinerary includes meetings with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani this evening and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei tomorrow. Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono will hold talks with his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif hours before the Abe-Rouhani summit.
The trip gives Abe a rare opportunity to raise his diplomatic profile ahead of a Group of 20 summit in Japan on 28 and 29 June before an election for Japan’s upper house this summer.
Before making the trip official, Abe secured the support of important allies.
During a state visit to Japan, US President Donald J. Trump last month encouraged the prime minister's attempts to mediate a possible dialogue between Washington and Tehran, exploiting good relations between Japan and the Islamic Republic.
Abe also spoke by phone with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the crown princes of Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi.
Trump's decision in May 2018 to withdraw from the hard-fought Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) reached by predecessor Barack Obama and to impose the toughest sanctions in history are the cause of current tensions between the US and Iran.
The US has targeted Iran’s oil exports and boosted its military presence in the area. Iran responded by threatening to revive uranium enrichment and pointed the finger at European nations, who are tasked with saving what remains of the nuclear agreement.
Japan has long been one of the largest importers of Iranian oil.