Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe waves goodbye before departing from Haneda airport for Iran on Wednesday morning. Photo: AFP

Abe heads to Tehran to try and ease Iran-U.S. tensions

By Amir Havasi

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is expected in Tehran on Wednesday for a rare diplomatic mission, hoping to ease tensions between the Islamic republic and Tokyo's key ally Washington.

The first Japanese prime minister to visit Iran in 41 years, Abe is expected to arrive in Tehran at around 1 p.m. and go straight into talks with President Hassan Rouhani.

Tehran is locked in a bitter standoff with Washington after President Donald Trump withdrew from a landmark 2015 nuclear deal in May last year.

Washington has since reimposed crippling unilateral sanctions that 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 in Tokyo 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.

Japanese government officials say Abe will not present Tehran with a list of demands, or deliver a message from Washington, and instead want to play the role of neutral intermediary.

On Tuesday, Abe discussed "the situation in Iran" in a telephone call with Trump, a Japanese government spokesman said.

A government official said Abe will not be in Tehran to "mediate between Iran and the U.S." and that "easing tensions" was the prime purpose.

"He might touch upon the subject (of mediation) but that does not necessarily mean he is delivering a message" from Washington, he added.

After holding talks with Rouhani on Wednesday, Abe is to meet Iran's supreme leader on Thursday morning.

Japan is hoping to lower the temperature, officials say.

Abe won Trump's blessing for the mediation mission when the U.S. president visited Tokyo last month.

"We believe it is extremely important that, at the leadership level, we call on Iran as a major regional power to ease tension, to adhere to the nuclear agreement and to play a constructive role for the region's stability," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said ahead of the trip.

Iran newspapers divided along conservative-reformist lines in their assessments of Abe's visit.

The reformist Sazandegi daily ran a front-page cartoon of Abe in full samurai armor, a rolled piece of paper in one hand and a shield on the other.

In an accompanying article headlined "A samurai in Tehran," the paper said everyone was waiting to see "Tehran's reaction to Japan's initiative to raise its international standing by mediating as both Washington's ally and Iran's friend."

The ultra-conservative Javan daily, warned that "Iran and Japan minus America" could be a winning formula for Abe, but "Japan as America's intermediary in Iran" would fail given the deep mistrust of the U.S.

Other Iranian commentators said Abe could pass messages between the two sides.

"Mr Abe's visit comes right after meeting Mr Trump in Japan, so the Americans are interested in using this channel," Ebrahim Rahimpour, a former deputy foreign minister, told Iran's Shargh daily.

But while Tokyo has longstanding trade ties with Tehran and close relations with Washington, experts say Abe has little leverage with either side and mediation will be an uphill struggle.

The trip "faces substantial obstacles and is unlikely to bear fruit," Tobias Harris, an analyst at Teneo consultancy group, said in a note. "While Japan has good relationships with countries on both sides, these relationships do not necessarily translate into influence."

© 2019 AFP

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.

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Washington has since reimposed crippling unilateral sanctions that have forced Japan to halt its once substantial purchases of Iranian oil and launched a military buildup in the Gulf.

I don't think the USA can force Japan to do anything since Japan is an independently governed country. Isn't it that USA has imposed sanctions against Iran, and asked Japan to follow as a partner, and they agreed?

Abe will certainly be able to explain "Trump culture" to Iran, and that is very good.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

What an absolute twat......'Deflect,Deny,Distance and Deride.

His home country's economy is crumbling.

I went to see the Iris Festival at a place near my house this last week........60% of the participants were elderly,30% were either poor or appeared to be poor and the remaining 10% were either pretending to be neither or were up to their necks in debt driving their Lexus.....or it their Lexi?

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Pls save Japan and all the people living in Japan first.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

This is a joke. Abe and international affairs. Good one!

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

PM Abe’s meetings in Teheran may help lower the rhetoric.

Few of us are familiar with the intervention of the United Sates of America in Iranian affairs throughout the 20th Century.

The current occupant of the White House listens closely to the USA’s client state in the Middle East, a country which is itching to get the USA involved in another mindless war of choice, similar to the one conducted by the George W (Weapons of Mass Deception) Bush Administration.

Enough already, We the People of the United States of America deserve better.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Dear Amir Havasi,


I think that you are Iranian and a good journalist in jepantoday, the report was informative but in the middle of the report something surprised me. you just mentioned Gulf and if I'm not mistaken you refer to the "Persian Gulf" and so as I said before if you are iranian like me it's so disappointing....

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Useless, please confirm that the actual politics in Iran are not good, no freedom and democratics ideals..

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Abe san can't settle Japan's diplomatic disputes with any of Japan's neighbors, so why does he think he could settle diplomatic disputes half away around the globe?

Abe san comes as being the worst PM in foreign diplomacy since 1945, so he should stay away from meddling in others' affairs before making them worse.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Iran is a multilateral issue, Japan, Europeans, Africans should all conduct talks with Iran, the world can't afford to leave Iran's jaded nuclear ambition to Trump and the Ayatolla alone.

At the end of the day, Iran has got to either tone down its rhetoric, and anti Israel (a proxy for the western world) stance, or no one but terrorists will trust it. I hope Abe et al can convey the positives that can come from a less jaded Iran.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

In one year and seven months, just like the many trade wars that have been started, this problem will solve itself.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Tensions between the US and, indeed, the globe will only ease when the nations of the globe collectively stand up to the US. The problem is that a bully must continue bullying to intimidate and dominate and this is what is happening with the US. In order to continue global dictatorship it must continue to threaten, intimidate and flex its muscle and so expect more wars in the future until the globe tell the US "enough". The alternative is a global nuclear holocaust initiated by Washington. At the moment, the people of the world still have the opportunity to start making their elected leaders accountable, but time is running out.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

A government official said Abe will not be in Tehran to "mediate between Iran and the U.S." and that "easing tensions" was the prime purpose.

While trump is in office there can be no mediation as he will not listen to anything but what he wants to hear.

While Trump is in office, the easing of tensions will be a useless purpose. He will not listen.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

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