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EghtesadOnline: The Japanese prime minister's visit to Tehran is a great opportunity to promote cooperation between the two Asian countries that have maintained a good partnership during their 90-year history of diplomatic relations, Iran's ambassador in Tokyo said.

"The trip is a turning point in the two countries' relations, as it is the first time since the [1979] Islamic Revolution that a Japanese premier is visiting Iran," Morteza Rahmani Movahed also told IRNA.  

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is set to arrive in Tehran on Wednesday for a two-day stay. He will meet President Hassan Rouhani the same day before meeting Leader of Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei on Thursday.

Movahed said there are various ways of expanding bilateral relations, including the implementation of economic agreements and resumption of oil cooperation, Financial Tribune reported.

"Throughout history, Japan has never stopped buying Iranian crude oil and the reason for their temporary suspension is the American unilateral sanctions and pressure," he said. 

After withdrawing from the 2015 nuclear deal and reimposing sanctions on Tehran last year, the US placed a total ban on the purchase of Iranian oil as part of its maximum pressure campaign. 

Japan, a major client of Iran's oil, was given an initial waiver that expired in May. 

"Japan has always worked to negotiate with this country [the US] to obtain exemptions … We hope they will soon resume their purchase from Iran," he said.

Movahed expressed hope that the agreement on supporting Japanese investment in Iran, which was signed after the nuclear deal, would be implemented so that Japanese companies can play a more active role in Iran's market. 

"One of the projects they can invest in is the development of Chabahar Port [in southeastern Iran]." 

The diplomat also said the two countries are working on a financial mechanism to enable mutual trade by circumventing US sanctions. 

"Iran expects Japan to move toward facilitating and expanding trade ties with Iran and continuing its oil purchases," he said. 



Main Objectives 

Some news outlets have stated that the purpose of Abe's trip is to mediate and ease tensions between Iran and the United States. 

Movahed said that the prime goal of the visit is to expand bilateral relations in political, economic and cultural spheres, and discuss regional and international issues.  

Tehran's already strained relations with Washington deteriorated after US President Donald Trump pulled out of the nuclear deal and reimposed sweeping sanctions. 

The tensions reached a critical point in recent months, creating global concerns about a potential conflict. 

Abe's mission comes following a visit by Trump to Tokyo in which he endorsed efforts to encourage Iran to engage in dialogue with the US.

It has raised speculations that the mission is aimed at making reconciliation between the two arch-foes.

"The trip is made at the invitation of President Hassan Rouhani, but the coincidence of the [recent] close contacts between Tokyo and Washington with the current situation in the region have fueled such speculations," the ambassador said. 

Movahed, however, stressed that the Islamic Republic's core policy is reducing tension and establishing peace and stability in the region and it would welcome any effort to help fulfill this objective. 

"Through a set of illegal and unilateral measures … the US has heightened tensions in the Middle East…, so any approach that could prevent the US intervention will be welcomed," he said. 

He pointed to the US move to amplify its military presence as one of the causes of unease in the Persian Gulf region. 

Kunihiko Miyake, a former Japanese diplomat, also said that “the object of the visit is not to mediate; it’s basically bilateral issues and if there is any additional business to do, we will do it carefully", Reuters reported. 

Yet, Abe is in a unique position, thanks to Tokyo's friendly relations with both Washington and Tehran, and the Iran-US conflict will likely be a subject of discussion. 

"Amid rising tensions in the Middle East, we plan to encourage Iran, a regional power, to move toward easing tensions at the top leaders’ meetings," said Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga on Tuesday.

Abe spoke over the phone with Trump on Tuesday, a day ahead of his visit to Tehran, according to Suga. 

"The two leaders exchanged views on regional issues, including the situation in Iran," he told a news conference without giving details due to the sensitive nature of the topic. 


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