Ayatollah Khamenei meets Japan's PM amid US tensions

“Japan seeks to play a maximum role to prevent tensions.”

June 14, 2019 03:01
3 minute read.
Ayatollah Khamenei meets Japan's PM amid US tensions

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani walks with Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, during a welcome ceremony in Tehran, Iran, June 12, 2019.. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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Iran’s supreme leader told Shinzo Abe on Thursday there was no point even replying to a message the Japanese prime minister had brought to Tehran from Donald Trump, as a peacemaking visit was overshadowed by attacks on tankers in the Gulf of Oman.

Abe, who had discussed Iran with Trump last month, brought a message from the US president, but Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei rebuffed it.

“I do not see Trump as worthy of any message exchange, and I do not have any reply for him, now or in future,” Iranian state media quoted Khamenei as telling the Japanese premier.

Abe spent his second day in Tehran holding high level meetings after meeting Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Wednesday.

The Japanese leader hosted Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif in Iran last month and has said he would like to ease tensions through his current trip. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke to Abe before he arrived in Iran.

Abe’s visit also comes on the heels of a trip by German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas. For the Iranian regime this is good news. It can bask in the light as if it is one of the most important countries, while it holds court to leaders from all over the world.

Japan’s prime minister said he wants peace and tranquility, according to Iran’s press TV. He emphasized the importance of stability in the region. “Japan seeks to play a maximum role to prevent tensions.” Japan and Germany appear to have allied over the cause of easing tensions and working with Iran – an interesting development, considering that both countries have traditionally held a more modest foreign policy footprint since the last century.

Abe was reported to have “hailed a fatwa by the leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Ali Khamenei prohibiting nuclear weapons.” There is no evidence that such a fatwa has any meaning besides Iran using it for propaganda purposes abroad. Abe appeared to also accept at face value Iran’s claims to remain within the 2015 Iran deal guidelines, even as the IAEA has determined that Tehran is increasing uranium enrichment and has threatened to leave the deal if the European countries don’t do more for the Islamic republic. According to Press TV in Iran, Rouhani said that Japan wanted to buy Iran’s oil. The US has vowed to bring Iran’s oil exports to zero. Washington also slapped new sanctions on Iranian petrochemicals.

The meeting with Rouhani touched on many issues. Iran said it was hosting refuges from Afghanistan and that it played a key role fighting against terror and ISIS. In addition, Iran praised Japan for the meeting on the 90th anniversary of relations between the two countries. Iran said it wants a friend in Japan; it also warned the US against war.

They two leaders on Wednesday also discussed cooperation in the field of medicine and economy, as well as development aid and environmental crisis assistance. For instance, Tokyo has sent aid to Iran to help flood victims, Tasnim News reported. Separately, Japan’s Foreign Minister Tara Kono met with Zarif, who slammed the US and accused Washington of economic terrorism. Then Zarif smiled and said that Japan was a good friend of Iran.

The visit is a win for Tehran in its track record of foreign relations, which is designed to get around Washington’s sanctions and also burnish Iran’s image to make it seem like a responsible and normal country. This is the agenda of Zarif and Rouhani. Many countries, like Japan, appear willing to work with Iran and also to try to reduce tensions with the US. How they will reduce them even as the US ups sanctions is unclear.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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