Japan Offers to Help Ease Persian Gulf Tensions
EghtesadOnline: Senior Iranian and Japanese officials met in Yokohama, south of Tokyo, on Tuesday to discuss Middle East security and latest developments in diplomatic efforts to save the 2015 nuclear deal following the US exit.
The Foreign Ministry reported that talks between Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran's chief diplomat, and his Japanese counterpart, Taro Kono, centered on bilateral issues, the nuclear agreement and regional developments, particularly in the Persian Gulf.
It was their first meeting since the United States last month called on allies, including Japan, to join a military alliance to safeguard commercial shipping in the Strait of Hormuz from alleged Iranian threats, Kyodo News reported.
Tensions between Iran and the United States remain high after a string of attacks on oil tankers near the strategic waterway, which Washington has blamed on Tehran. Iran denies any involvement, according to Financial Tribune.
The situation worsened after Tehran's seizure of a British-flagged tanker, the Stena Impero, in the Strait of Hormuz for maritime violations—which the UK disputes.
While Britain and Australia have announced their willingness to participate in the initiative, Japan has remained hesitant out of concern that doing so would hurt its friendly relations with Iran.
Ahead of his talks with Kono, Zarif was quoted as saying by Reuters that both countries have special interests in energy market security and Persian Gulf stability.
Japan's foreign minister said his country will help ease tension in the Middle East.
"We are worried about tension in the Middle East and we hope to make some diplomatic efforts to ease the tension," Kono told reporters as he stood with Zarif.
Japan has sought to broker dialogue between Iran and the United States, with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe traveling to the West Asian country in June, the first trip there by a sitting prime minister in over four decades.
Kyodo News cited informed sources as saying that Zarif is scheduled to meet Abe on Wednesday.
According to Reuters, Japan is the world's fourth-biggest oil buyer and 86% of its oil supplies last year passed through the Strait of Hormuz, a vital shipping route linking Middle East oil producers to markets in Asia, Europe, North America and beyond.