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Japan PM Calls on Iran to Play ‘Constructive’ Role in Peace

Japan PM Calls on Iran to Play ‘Constructive’ Role in Peace

Wednesday, 12 June, 2019 - 10:30
Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe greets Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, right, during the 2014 meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos. (Reuters)
Asharq Al-Awsat

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called on Wednesday to play a constructive role in building peace and stability in the Middle East.

"Amid rising tension, it is essential for Iran to play a constructive role in strengthening peace and stability in the Middle East, so that this region won't be destabilized further or accidental clashes won't happen," Abe told a joint news conference in Tehran with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.

In the first visit to Iran by a Japanese premier since the 1979 revolution, Abe added that his country was determined to do everything it can to help ease mounting tensions in the region an urged for “more patience.”

Abe said he and Rouhani "bluntly discussed" the crisis.

"There is possibility of an accidental conflict and a military conflict should be prevented at all costs,” he warned.

Rouhani earlier said that Japan wanted to continue to buy Iranian oil, though Tokyo has stopped over American sanctions. Abe did not acknowledge that in his remarks.

"Whenever the economic war stops, we will see a very positive development in the region and the world,” Rouhani added.

Abe on Thursday will meet Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.

Last year, the US withdrew from a nuclear deal re-imposed sanctions on Iran targeting its oil sector. America also recently deployed an aircraft carrier and B-52 bombers to the Arabian Gulf over threats from Tehran.

Earlier on Wednesday, Iranian officials said Tehran will ask Japan to mediate between it and Washington to ease oil sanctions imposed by the US.

“Japan can help in easing the ongoing tension between Iran and America... As a goodwill gesture, America should either lift the unjust oil sanctions or extend the waivers or suspend them,” a senior Iranian official told Reuters.

On a four-day visit to Japan last month, US President Donald Trump welcomed Abe’s help in dealing with Iran, highlighting what he called the “very good relationship” between Tokyo and Tehran.

As a US ally that also has good diplomatic relations with Iran, Japan could be in a unique position to mediate between the two foes.

Washington, calling the nuclear deal flawed and seeking to push Iran into new negotiations, intensified sanctions from the start of May, ordering all countries and firms to halt imports of Iranian oil or be banished from the global financial system.

“Japan wants to do as much as possible toward peace and stability in the Middle East,” Abe said in Tokyo, ahead of his departure, according to Iranian TV.

To achieve his aim of slashing Iran’s oil exports to zero, the Trump administration has revoked waivers since May that had allowed some countries, including Japan, to continue buying Iranian crude and has effectively ordered countries to stop purchasing Iranian oil or face sanctions of their own.

Despite pushing for imports to continue, Japan has stopped importing oil from Iran for now to avoid US sanctions.

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