Abe in Iran: First Japanese leader to visit country since 1979
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is currently visiting Iran as relations between Washington and Tehran continue to deteriorate. Hossein Nematzade reports.
The first visit by a Japanese leader to Iran in more than four decades, Shinzo Abe was welcomed to Tehran on Wednesday by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.
Their meeting comes amid escalating tensions between Tehran and Washington, a year after the US controversially pulled out of a landmark nuclear deal and re-imposed sanctions on the Islamic Republic.
Tokyo says it hopes to mediate between the two sides, and encourage them to engage in direct talks.
SAEED LAYLAZ POLITICAL ACTIVIST "This is the traditional policy of the United States -- we call it stick and carrot. Armed battleships on one side, and international mediators on the other. This is a continuation of the same policy. But this shows that war between Iran and America is very unlikely."
During a visit to Japan late last month, U.S. President Donald Trump softened his tone on Iran and welcomed Abe's help.
However, Iranian officials have strongly rejected any negotiations with the United States, saying that resistance is their only choice.
KAMAL KHARAZI FOREIGN POLICY ADVISOR TO IRAN'S SUPREME LEADER "If it is assumed that we enter negotiations with America because of the visit of Mr. Abe, then no, it will not be realized. Unless Mr. Abe can convince America to return to the JCPOA. But I don't think his visit could have such an outcome."
Iran was once a major supplier of crude to Japan, providing more than 10% of its supply before the US sanctions returned.
Diplomatic sources say Japan wants to keep the option of Iranian oil open to protect it from possible disruptions in other major oil-producing countries.
Japan worries that a rise in tensions in the middle east -- and the possible death of the Iran nuclear deal -- or the JCPOA -- could endanger Japan's energy security.
HOSSEIN ROOYVARAN POLITICAL ANALYST "Iran, at the moment, will reject any indirect talks with the US under any condition, unless the conditions are fundamentally changed. He may have some proposals that could meet Iran's demands somehow."
Tehran will likely use Abe's visit to convey to the world Iran's lofty position in the world order. Meanwhile, Abe will be trying hard to leave a diplomatic legacy, in a bid to win more support in upcoming domestic elections.
HOSSEIN NEMATZADE TEHRAN, IRAN "Observers say Iran will not let the Japanese prime minister go back home empty-handed, but achieving a great diplomatic breakthrough on his mediation mission is never-the-less unlikely. Hossein Nematzade CGTN, Tehran, Iran."