Japan foreign minister arrives in Tehran after Israel trip

TEHRAN (Agencies): Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi is planning to talk with new Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi in Tehran on Sunday, diplomatic sources said Saturday.

The meeting with Raisi, an anti-U.S. conservative hardliner who took office this month, comes as Iran faces a deadlock in nuclear talks with the United States and Europe. Japan, meanwhile, has built friendly ties with Tehran while also being allied with Washington.

Motegi is on a trip to the Middle East that also saw him visit Israel, another country that recently underwent changes in government.

After arriving in Tehran on Saturday, Motegi is expected to hold talks with Raisi and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Sunday. He is also planning to meet with Hossein Amir Abdollahian, a former Iranian deputy foreign minister who is set to succeed Zarif under the Raisi admi-nistration, the sources said.

Raisi has called for the lifting of U.S. sanctions on Iran, which have been strengthened since 2018 when then President Donald Trump’s administration unilaterally walked out of the 2015 nuclear deal with Tehran.

Under the deal, Iran and six major powers agreed to limit Tehran’s nuclear activities in return for sanctions relief.

While indicating he will continue indirect talks with the U.S. administration of President Joe Biden, Raisi’s unwillingness to compromise on nuclear issues may intensify the confrontation between the two countries.

There are calls within the Iranian government to ask Japan to mediate and push the United States to ease the sanctions, according to the sources.

Since taking office, Raisi has held telephone talks with French President Emmanuel Macron, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin, and has met with Indian External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar in person.

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