FOCUS: Abe's Skill as U.S.-Iran Mediator to Be Tested

Politics

Tokyo, May 18 (Jiji Press)--As leader of a country that is a close ally of the United States and also has a long friendship with Iran, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is likely to face a test on his skills as a mediator between Washington and Tehran amid rising tensions between them.

"Japan is concerned about surging tensions surrounding the Middle East," Abe told Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif during their meeting at the prime minister's office in Tokyo on Thursday, calling on Iran to refrain from provoking the United States and act to defuse the tensions.

Zarif visited Japan hurriedly, ahead of U.S. President Donald Trump's four-day trip to the Asian country from May 25.

The Trump administration, which views Iran as enemy and has imposed economic sanctions on the country, stepped up pressure on Tehran this month by dispatching an aircraft carrier strike group and strategic bombers to the Middle East.

Iran countered by announcing an intention to suspend some of its obligations under the 2015 nuclear deal and threatened to close off the Strait of Hormuz, a key channel for crude oil transportation.

[Copyright The Jiji Press, Ltd.]

Jiji Press