As tensions rise between Iran and the United States, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will meet with the Islamic republic’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei later this month with the hope that he can serve as an intermediary between Washington, a key ally, and Tehran, a report said Sunday.
According to the Mainichi Shimbun report, Abe’s planned meeting with influential Khamenei will be the first such talks between a Japanese premier and Tehran’s supreme leader.
US President Donald Trump said last week he remained open to talks with Tehran during his state visit to Tokyo, appearing to have given the nod of approval to Abe’s plan.
Abe will also meet Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani before meeting Khamenei during his tour to Iran from June 12 to 14, the newspaper said, citing unnamed government sources.
Before Trump traveled to Japan, the United States had announced it was sending 1,500 extra troops to the region, adding to the aircraft carrier group and nuclear-capable bomber planes already dispatched.
Trump himself threatened “the official end” of the country if Tehran ever attacked American interests.
But last Monday in Tokyo, Trump assured that he can live with the Islamic republic’s government, which Washington hardliners have long been intent on overthrowing.
“We’re not looking for regime change,” Trump said, insisting he was only concerned about Iran not achieving nuclear power status.
“I do believe that Iran would like to talk, and if they’d like to talk, we’d like to talk also,” Trump added, striking an uncharacteristically dovish tone.
Khamenei has likened negotiations with the Trump administration to “poison” since “they don’t stand by anything,” referring to Washington’s withdrawal from the landmark 2015 nuclear agreement signed by Tehran and world powers.
Tokyo and Tehran have maintained good relations as resource-poor Japan relies heavily on imports of oil from the Middle East, though crude from Iran accounted for just 5.3% of the country’s total imports last year.
Meanwhile, Qatar’s foreign minister said on Sunday that Doha rejected the outcome of the recent Mecca talks on intensifying regional tensions with Iran as it had not been properly consulted.
Saudi Arabia hosted three summits in the holy city over the weekend critical of Iran after King Salman warned that “terrorist” attacks in the Gulf region could threaten global energy supplies.
“The statements of the Gulf and Arab summits were ready in advance and we were not consulted on them,” Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani told the Al-Araby broadcaster.
“Qatar has reservations on the Arab and Gulf summits because some of their terms are contrary to Doha’s foreign policy.”
Tehran has strongly denied involvement in recent attacks on oil infrastructure and regional shipping – incidents that prompted Riyadh to convene the three crisis summits.
In a tweet just before the start of the summit, the king vowed to confront “aggressive threats and subversive activities.”
– with reporting by AFP