Iran sounds out Japan about possible Hassan Rouhani visit: source
TEHRAN/TOKYO – Iran sounded out Japan on Tuesday about President Hassan Rouhani visiting the country, a source close to bilateral relations said.
Abbas Araghchi, Iran’s deputy foreign minister for political affairs, serving as a special envoy of the president, relayed the message to Japan during his two-day visit to Tokyo from Monday, according to the source.
Iran is seen as hoping to realize such a visit at an early date while Japan is expected to examine the proposal carefully.
Rouhani has welcomed Japan’s efforts to ease tensions in the Middle East amid an ongoing standoff with the United States over a 2015 nuclear deal, the deputy foreign minister said Tuesday during a meeting with Abe, according to the Japanese Foreign Ministry.
Following the U.S.’s withdrawal from the deal, Iran has gradually stepped away from commitments under the landmark agreement with major world powers under which it promised to limit its uranium stockpiles and enrichment levels in exchange for relief from crippling economic sanctions.
President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the deal last year, calling it “horrible” and “one-sided.”
Abe expressed concern over Iran’s departure from the commitments, saying that the deal must be preserved, according to the ministry.
Regional tensions have escalated after attacks earlier this year on oil tankers near the Strait of Hormuz, the crucial sea lane out of the Persian Gulf, and a strike on Saudi Arabian oil facilities, both of which the United States has blamed on Iran.
In a separate meeting with Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi, Araghchi said the current situation in the Middle East and around the Persian Gulf is “more serious than ever before.”
“Tensions continue to run high. That is why discussions and cooperation between Japan and Iran is becoming more and more important,” he said.
Japan, which is a key U.S. security ally but also maintains friendly relations with Iran, has sought to play a mediating role, with Abe traveling to Tehran in a bid to broker dialogue.
Araghchi hailed the trip as a “turning point” in bilateral relations.
The United States, meanwhile, has called for a coalition to patrol waters near the strait and protect commercial shipping, dubbed Operation Sentinel.
Japan has opted not to participate in the coalition, instead planning to send a Maritime Self-Defense Force ship and a patrol plane to the region for “research” purposes.