Japan’s Abe in Tehran mission to ease Iran-US tensions

Tehran: Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is expected in Tehran 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 1120 GMT 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. 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.
However, experts say Abe has little leverage with either side
“The trip by the Japanese PM “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.” (AFP)

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