Iran’s foreign minister in first high-level visit to Japan since 2019

The war in Ukraine and Tehran’s alleged military support for Russia are discussed in Tokyo.

Iran’s foreign minister has met with top officials in Japan in the first such high-level visit in more than three years.

Hossein Amirabdollahian sat down with Prime Minister Fumio Kishida in Tokyo on Monday after holding meetings with his Japanese counterpart, Yoshimasa Hayashi, and Health, Labour and Welfare Minister Katsunobu Kato.

The last time a top Iranian diplomat visited Japan was in December 2019, one year after the United States unilaterally withdrew from a 2015 nuclear deal and reinstated wide-ranging sanctions on Iran.

Japan raised the issue of Iran’s alleged provision of armed drones to Russian forces fighting in Ukraine, but Amirabdollahian reiterated Iranian denials that it was supplying Russia.

Japan, which holds this year’s presidency of the Group of Seven nations, has been maintaining economic sanctions on Russia over the war as part of the G7.

Iran has been heavily criticised and targeted by sanctions by the US, European Union and United Kingdom for providing drones to Russia.

Tehran, for its part, has said it sent drones to Russia before the war and favours dialogue to end the conflict that began in February last year.

After arriving in Tokyo, Amirabdollahian told local media in a press conference that “we have not provided any drones to any side for the purpose of being used in the war in Ukraine”.

The foreign minister also discussed the nuclear accord, which remains in limbo more than two years after multilateral talks aimed at restoring it first began.

After the talks in Tokyo, a Japanese statement said Hayashi had expressed concern about Iran’s nuclear activities and urged cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Japan has supported efforts to restore the nuclear deal, which put stringent curbs on Iran’s nuclear programme in exchange for lifting multilateral sanctions.

In recent months, reports have indicated the possibility of an understanding or an interim agreement between Tehran and Washington that could potentially help reduce tensions over Iran’s nuclear programme and security in regional waters.

Speaking to reporters on Monday, Amirabdollahian appeared to once again shoot down prospects of any interim deal, saying Iran continues to pursue only a full return to the nuclear deal through dialogue facilitated by EU representatives.

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