August 27, 2019 / 9:59 AM / 2 months ago

Japan minister, meeting Iranian counterpart, urges Iran to abide by nuclear deal

YOKOHAMA, Japan (Reuters) - Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono said he urged Iran to abide by a 2015 nuclear deal during a meeting on Tuesday with his Iranian counterpart, Mohammad Javad Zarif.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and his Japanese counterpart Taro Kono hold a meeting at a hotel in Yokohama, south of Tokyo, Japan August 27, 2019. Kazuhiro Nogi/Pool via REUTERS

The men agreed to maintain close communication between Japan and Iran, which historically have had friendly ties, to ease tension between the United States and Iran, Kono told reporters afterward.

“Based on Japan’s stance of consistently supporting the nuclear agreement, I asked the Iranian side to observe the agreement, to go back immediately to the commitments of the agreement, and to refrain from taking measures that would infringe on the agreement,” Kono said.

President Donald Trump pulled the United States out of the 2015 agreement last year and reimposed sanctions on Iran. In response, Iran has slowly been breaching its side of the deal, under which Tehran agreed to curbs on its nuclear programme in exchange for the lifting of many international sanctions.

The standoff over the nuclear deal has caused a sharp increase in tensions between the two longtime foes.

At the start of the meeting, Zarif and Kono smiled and shook hands. Zarif said Japan and Iran have special interests in the security of the energy market and stability in the Gulf.

Kono declined to say if the two discussed the U.S.-led mission to bolster Gulf security or purchases of Iranian crude oil.

Washington has been calling for its allies to join it in an operation to guard shipping in the Strait of Hormuz, a vital gateway for the world’s oil industry. So far, Britain, Australia and Bahrain have joined the U.S.-led security mission.

Washington’s call followed a series of attacks on international merchant vessels, which the United States has blamed on Iran, and the Iranian seizure of a British oil tanker. Tehran has denied accusations that it was behind attacks on six tankers in May and June.

French President Emmanuel Macron opened an avenue towards a diplomatic solution to the U.S.-Iran standoff at a Group of Seven summit in France at the weekend, saying that Iranian President Hassan Rouhani had told him he was open to a meeting with Trump. Zarif paid an unexpected visit to the summit, holding talks on the sidelines of the meeting with French officials.

Trump told a news conference it was realistic to envisage a meeting with the Iranian head of government in coming weeks. Both leaders are scheduled to attend the U.N. General Assembly next month.

But on Tuesday, Rouhani said Iran would not talk to the United States until all sanctions were lifted.

Reporting by Kiyoshi Takenaka; Writing by Malcolm Foster; Editing by Clarence Fernandez, Robert Birsel and Frances Kerry

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