20:49 GMT18 January 2021
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    MOSCOW (Sputnik) - Japanese Prime Minister will start his three-day visit to Iran on Wednesday as part of a rare diplomatic mission to help ease tensions between Tehran and Tokyo's ally Washington.

    This will be the first visit by an incumbent head of the Japanese government to Iran since 1978. It was officially announced by Japan's chief cabinet secretary, Yoshihide Suga, on Tuesday.

    According to Suga, Abe will hold talks with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

    "During the visit, the prime minister will call on leaders of the regional superpower to work on easing heightened tensions in the Middle East," Suga said at a press conference as quoted by the Japan News media outlet.

    Abe's visit to Iran will come just over two weeks after US President Donald Trump's trip to Japan, which was followed by speculation in the media that Abe might act as an intermediary between Tehran and Washington.

    US-Iran Standoff

    The relationship between Iran and the United States crumbled after the latter withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal last year.

    Washington has since reimposed wide-ranging sanctions on the Islamic republic in a bid to bring the country's oil exports to zero, and increased its military presence in the Middle East.

    Suga said Abe discussed the situation in Iran over the phone with Trump on Tuesday. The government official declined to provide more details on the talks.

    According to the Japanese NHK broadcaster, Abe may have reiterated his plans to try to de-escalate tensions in the region.


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