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Japanese foreign minister holds talks in Tehran, days after Israel visit

Meeting with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, aimed at ‘deescalating tensions,’ comes after discussions on Iran with Lapid in Jerusalem

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, right, welcomes Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi for their meeting at the presidency office, in Tehran, Iran, on August 22, 2021. (Iranian Presidency Office via AP)
Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, right, welcomes Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi for their meeting at the presidency office, in Tehran, Iran, on August 22, 2021. (Iranian Presidency Office via AP)

Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi met Iranian officials in Tehran on Sunday, just days after meeting top Israeli leaders in Jerusalem.

According to Iranian news agencies, Motegi met with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, on Sunday in Tehran, and the two discussed the de-escalation of tensions in the region. The president’s official website, president.ir, said Motegi discussed bilateral, regional, and international issues with Raisi.

The two-day visit is the first by a Japanese official since Raisi became Iran’s new president and the first since the Japanese prime minister visited Iran in 2019. The Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA) an Iranian state-run news organization, said that Motegi is in Tehran at the official invitation of Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.

Iran featured in discussions last week between Motegi and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid in Jerusalem. According to Tokyo, the Japanese foreign minister held a “discussion over the situation in the Middle East, such as the Middle East Peace, Iran, and Afghanistan,” and Motegi “expressed his expectation that the development of relations between Israel and Arab states would be a step toward easing tensions and stabilization of the region.”

Motegi also met with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and President Isaac Herzog while in Israel, though Iran was not mentioned in readouts of the meetings.

Motegi is currently on a 10-day trip across the Middle East, and has made stops in Egypt, Jordan, Iraq and Turkey. He is slated to wrap up his trip with a visit to Qatar later this week.

President Isaac Herzog meets Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi in Jerusalem, on August 18, 2021. (Mark Neyman/GPO)

The Japanese foreign minister is scheduled to meet with other Iranian officials during his visit to Tehran, including Raisi’s nominated foreign minister, Hossein Amirabdollahian, and other high-ranking officials.

Iran’s state-run IRNA – Islamic Republic News Agency reported Saturday that Motegi’s visit to Tehran is aimed at boosting bilateral relations with Iran, and furthering diplomatic efforts to deescalate and stabilize the Middle East.

During Sunday’s meeting, Raisi welcomed efforts by Japan and other countries to help establish peace and stability in Afghanistan and the region. “Iran has always supported peace and stability in Afghanistan. Of course, we believe that Afghans should make their own decisions in Afghanistan.”

Raisi said he is opposed to the creation of insecurity in the region, adding: “The presence of Americans in the region, including Afghanistan, has not provided security.”

Motegi said Tokyo also supports diplomatic efforts by regional countries to achieve peace and stability in the region. He said Japan believes problems should be resolved peacefully, and through dialogue.

Earlier on Sunday, Motegi met with Zarif and the two also discussed de-escalation of tensions in the region. A semi-official ISNA news agency report on Sunday said that Motegi discussed bilateral, regional, and international issues with Zarif.

In 2019, former Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe visited Iran’s top leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as an interlocutor for former US president Donald Trump, hoping to ease tensions between Washington and Tehran. But Khamenei did not consider Trump worthy of an exchange of messages.

Bennett is slated to depart for Washington later this week, and to meet with US President Joe Biden in the White House on Thursday, with Iran at the top of his agenda.

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