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Tehran Hopes Japan Initiative Will Help Ease Tensions

Japan’s prime minister, whose country relies heavily on the Middle East for energy supplies, has been seeking to ease tensions in the region through diplomatic initiatives
Tehran Hopes Japan Initiative Will Help Ease Tensions Tehran Hopes Japan Initiative Will Help Ease Tensions

The Iranian government hopes President Hassan Rouhani's upcoming visit to Japan to discuss Tokyo's peace initiative for the Middle East will help defuse tensions in the volatile region, the Iranian Foreign Ministry’s spokesman said. 
"Japan is a friendly country that makes proposals in good faith so that the interests of all in the region will be guaranteed," Abbas Mousavi said during a press briefing in Tabriz on Saturday, IRNA reported. 
Rouhani is set to travel to Japan on Dec. 19 for a three-day visit. Citing a source close to bilateral relations, Kyodo News reported on Wednesday that the two countries are making final arrangements for a meeting between Rouhani and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Dec. 20.
Abe has been seeking to ease tensions in the Middle East through diplomatic initiative. 
The region has been experiencing heightened tensions in the past few months, with several incidents such as attacks on oil tankers in the Persian Gulf in May and June.  
For resource-poor Japan, it is vital to secure the safe navigation of ships in the energy-rich Middle East, including near the Strait of Hormuz.
Tokyo's efforts are focused on resolving Iran's nuclear impasse with the United States. 
Washington pulled out of Iran's 2015 nuclear deal with the world powers last year and reimposed sanctions on Tehran to push for new negotiations that Iran has refused to consider until all sanctions are lifted. 
Japan maintains friendly ties with both the United States and Iran and has tried to mediate between the two. Abe traveled to Tehran in June and met with Rouhani and Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei to pursue this goal, marking the first visit by a Japanese premier to Iran in four decades.
Since Iran has been gradually reducing its compliance with the nuclear deal, Abe is also likely to urge Rouhani to return to its commitments.  
Iranian officials have declared repeatedly that the reduction of nuclear compliance would be reversed only when the country's economic problems are addressed through mechanisms enabling Iran to export its oil and repatriate its revenues. 
Mousavi hoped that Rouhani's visit would result in some progress in the situation to help achieve the desired outcome. He stressed that expanding bilateral ties with Japan is the primary goal of Rouhani's visit. 
"Japan is an important country in West Asia and we have great relations with them," he said. 
Tehran has been in talks with its neighbors and trade partners to establish mechanisms that can bypass the US sanctions. 
Japan was a major importer of Iranian oil before the US threatened penalties against nations who did business with Iran.

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