by Hassan Rouhvand
TEHRAN, June 11 (Xinhua) -- The imminent visit of Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to Iranian capital Tehran may result in a halt in the U.S. economic pressures on Iran, Ebrahim Rahimpour, Iranian political expert, said.
On Wednesday, Abe will make a rare visit to Tehran, seeking to ease tensions between Iran and the United States.
Following the U.S. President Donald Trump's withdrawal from the 2015 landmark nuclear deal in May last year, Washington reimposed energy and financial sanctions against Iran.
The U.S. administration has also mobilized military hardware, including bombers and warship, to the region under the pretext of alleged "Iranian threats."
Trump presses Iran for renewed talks on the latter's nuclear program, the country's ballistic missile tests and its regional role, which Iran rejects.
Tokyo and Tehran mark the 90th anniversary of their diplomatic relations in the current year, which provides an opportunity for the United States to reach out to Iran through Japan in the hope of dealing with the mutual prickly issues.
JAPAN RELIES ON REGIONAL ENERGY RESOURCES
Japan's diplomatic move is interpreted as a measure to protect Tokyo's regional interests.
Rahimpour spotlights on Japan's inclination for maintenance of energy imports from the regional states and, hence, its eagerness to involve in a diplomatic mission for region's stability.
"It is evident that Tokyo faces loss as a result of conflicts" between Iran and the United States, Rahimpour stated.
"In other words, it is in their interest if there is no conflict in the region between Tehran and Washington," he added.
In the meantime, Gianluca Pastori, professor of Political and Social Sciences from Milan Catholic University, believes that Japan is dependent on the oil of the region, and in this perspective, the country is keen on encouraging the conflicting sides to avoid escalating disputes.
Over the past decades, Iran has been one of the suppliers of crude oil to Japan. Before the U.S. sanctions against Iran in 2012, Iran provided up to 15 percent of Japan's oil demands.
In 2018, Saudi Arabia topped the crude exports to Japan by approximately 68 million kiloliters.
The United Arab Emirates ranked second by importing about 45 million kiloliters to Japan. Other regional countries, like Qatar, Kuwait, Iran, Bahrain, Oman and Iraq together added roughly 40 million kiloliters to Japan's crude imports.
The figures display Japan's heavy reliance on the energy of the region and a motivation behind Abe's Tehran visit.
JAPAN AS AN INTERMEDIARY
Under the U.S. pressures, major Iranian oil buyers, including Japan, have stopped trading with Iran, making Tehran locked up in a bitter economic and political controversy with the United States.
However, Rahimpour, also the former Iranian deputy foreign minister for Asia-Pacific affairs, said that due to Japan's "relations with both sides (Iran and the United States), it can play the role of an intermediary."
Media reports also suggest that, in his Wednesday meeting with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, Abe is going to invite Rouhani to a G20 summit in Japan at the end of this month.
"The meaning of inviting Rouhani to G20 summit, in case the news is true, is to hold talks with Trump," Rahimpour pointed out.
During his two-day stay in Tehran, Abe will also meet with Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei who has strongly opposed any talk with the United States under the pressures.
"It is hard to say how successful Abe's mediation can be," Pastori said.
Rahimpour said that Abe's visit to Tehran may have achievements, like the "economic truce."
"For sure, Iran will accept the truce provided that the U.S. halts economic war on Iran," he stressed.