Dec 17, 2019, 7:06 PM
Journalist ID: 2078
News Code: 83598317
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Iranian President Rouhani, Japan's Abe to meet on Friday, sources say

Tehran, Dec 17, IRNA - Iran's President Hassan Rouhani will visit Japan on Friday to meet with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the Japanese government said Tuesday, as Tokyo steps up diplomacy to help defuse tensions in the Middle East.

The two-day visit comes amid the US-Iran standoff over a landmark nuclear deal between Iran and world powers. Japan, which has traditionally friendly ties with Iran, has been seeking to promote dialogue between Tehran and Washington.

"We have been making strenuous diplomatic efforts to ease tensions in the Middle East and stabilize the situation there in coordination with the United States, Iran and other countries concerned," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said at a press conference.

The summit is part of such efforts and the two leaders are expected to discuss a wide range of bilateral and regional issues, Suga said.

Rouhani will become the first Iranian leader to visit Japan since Mohammad Khatami visited the Far East country in 2000. His visit follows Abe's trip to Iran in June, the first by a Japanese prime minister since 1978.

US sanctions were reinstated after Washington pulled out of the deal. Tehran has also been stepping away from the agreement, prompting France and other remaining members of the deal to try to salvage it.

In the 2015 nuclear agreement with Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia, and the United States, Iran was to curb its nuclear program in exchange for the lifting of sanctions against it.

Japan is not a member but a supporter of the landmark agreement and stability in the Middle East is important for the country as it relies on imports for nearly all crude oil procurement. Oil from the region accounts for about 90 percent of its total imports.

Tokyo has been urging Iran not to undermine the agreement. Abe is expected to make the same request to Rouhani when the two leaders meet, according to Japanese officials.

During the summit, Abe will likely brief Rouhani on Japan's plan to send its Self Defense Forces to the Middle East before the Cabinet formally endorses it on Monday, the officials said.

Japan has tried carefully in drawing up its plan to deploy the SDF so as not to hurt its good relations with Iran, nor with the United States, the longtime security ally.

Japan decided not to join a U.-led coalition to protect shipping in the Strait of Hormuz along the coast of Iran after a series of oil tanker attacks.

As a separate initiative, Japan plans to send a helicopter-carrying vessel and a patrol plane, along with Maritime Self-Defense Force personnel, to areas outside the strait, a critical pathway for transporting oil.

The envisaged one-year mission is aimed at enhancing the SDF's intelligence-gathering capabilities and helping secure the safe passage of ships.

President Rouhani has offered Hormuz Peace Endeavour (HOPE) to bring stability to the Persian Gulf region without foreign forces' presence. 


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