Shinzo Abe to become first Japanese leader to visit Iran in four decades

Shinzo Abe to become first Japanese leader to visit Iran in four decades

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will arrive in Iran today for a two-day visit in which he will meet Iranian

abe iran

Photo: ITW

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will arrive in Iran today for a two-day visit in which he will meet Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.

While Tokyo and Tehran have had a historically productive relationship, today’s visit is the first by a Japanese leader in 41 years. Prior to US sanctions, Japan imported around 20% of its oil from Iran, although Tokyo has now halted all purchases of Iranian oil to avoid incurring third-party sanctions.

After meeting with US President Donald Trump last month, Mr Abe could act as a mediator between Washington and Tehran—possibly proposing a meeting between the two leaders on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in September.

While Mr Abe has nothing to lose from such a match up, the effectiveness of his mediation efforts is far from certain. President Rouhani has been roundly criticised by hardliners in Iran for pursuing more cordial relations with the US under the Obama administration. Agreeing to talks with a perceived American hardliner like Mr Trump at a time of increasing tensions would incur even fiercer criticism. The lack of sanctions concessions from Washington only exacerbates this dynamic.

Like Europe, Japan has little to offer Iran—it is unlikely to restart oil imports and risk sanctions for the sake of mediation. As such, efforts over the coming days are unlikely to amount to a substantial easing of tensions between the US and Iran.

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