Tehran, Iran – Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi is in Tehran for a string of top-level meetings on a range of issues including Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers and the developing situation in Afghanistan.
Motegi, who touched down in the Iranian capital late on Saturday as part of his tour of the Middle East, met with President Ebrahim Raisi, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, security chief Ali Shamkhani, and parliamentary speaker Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf on Sunday.
The newly elected president told him Iran remained committed to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), as the nuclear deal is known, which the United States unilaterally abandoned in 2018, imposing sanctions.
“The Americans must answer to the world’s public opinion why they did not implement their commitments under the JCPOA and exited this international accord,” Raisi said, while also stressing Iran is not against negotiations.
According to the president’s website, Motegi reiterated Tokyo’s support for the multilateral accord, saying “we believe restoring the JCPOA is beneficial to all and can help resolve issues through dialogue”.
Representatives from Iran, China, Russia, France, Germany, United Kingdom, the European Union, and the US are soon expected to return to Vienna to continue talks on restoring the deal that were paused after six rounds in July to allow for the new administration in Tehran to take form.
But key disagreements – among other things – over how and which US sanctions need to be lifted and how Iran can again scale back its nuclear programme have cast doubt over whether the deal can be restored.
On Sunday, the Iranian president also told Motegi he welcomes efforts by Japan and neighbouring countries to help Afghanistan, which was recently seized by the Taliban in a matter of days after a withdrawal of US troops.
Raisi reiterated his stance that Afghans must decide the direction for their own country, and said Americans have admitted by pulling out after 20 years in Afghanistan that their presence was a mistake.
“Without a doubt we will also witness such confessions by other countries in the region and in the Persian Gulf area in the foreseeable future,” he said, denouncing US “bullying” in the region.
Motegi expressed concern over recent developments in Afghanistan, emphasising the necessity to stop violence and safeguard the people.
“Tokyo supports diplomatic efforts by the region’s countries to achieve peace and stability in the region, and it is our fundamental stance that issues need to be resolved through dialogue,” he was quoted as saying.
The issue of a significant volume of Iranian assets that continue to be frozen in Japan because of US sanctions, thought to total more than $1.5bn, also came up during the meeting.
“Delays in releasing Iranian assets in Japanese banks is not justifiable,” the president said.
The delegation led by Motegi earlier on Sunday met with outgoing foreign minister Zarif at the Iranian foreign ministry.
Zarif said in a tweet the sides “discussed strengthening bilateral relations, how to resuscitate the JCPOA, and the catastrophic US-engineered situation in Afghanistan”.
Pleased to host Japanese FM Motegi in Tehran on Sunday.
In what is probably my last meeting with a counterpart as Iran’s foreign minister, we discussed strengthening bilateral relations, how to resucitate the JCPOA and the catastrophic US-engineered situation in Afghanistan. pic.twitter.com/HBkJDcfpAr
— Javad Zarif (@JZarif) August 22, 2021
The Twitter account of the Japanese embassy in Tehran also announced the two countries signed a customs agreement.
“The goal of this agreement is to provide administrative support and joint cooperation in customs affairs,” it said.