TEHRAN -- Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi called on Japan to release Iranian funds frozen in the country because of U.S. sanctions, after the president met on Sunday with the visiting Japanese foreign minister.
Iran has been unable to obtain tens of billions of dollars of its assets mainly from exports of oil and gas in foreign banks, including $3 billion of its funds in Japan, due to U.S. sanctions on its banking and energy sectors. The sanctions were reimposed in 2018 after Washington abandoned Tehran’s 2015 nuclear deal with six world powers.
“The improvement of ties with Japan is of great importance for Iran ... Any delay in unblocking Iranian assets in Japanese banks is not justified,” Raisi said in his meeting with Toshimitsu Motegi, who arrived in Tehran late on Sunday for a two-day visit.
Iran and five remaining signatories of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) have been in talks since April to reinstate the nuclear pact.
However, Iranian and Western officials have said significant gaps remain to reinstating the pact. A sixth round of talks in Vienna adjourned on June 20, two days after Raisi won the presidential election in Iran.
The negotiating sides have yet to announce when they will resume the negotiations. Raisi, who has presented his cabinet to parliament for a vote of confidence, has backed the nuclear talks in Vienna provided that they help protect Iran’s national interests.
“Iran has no problem with the principle of negotiation ... What is the justification for keeping the U.S. sanctions against Iran in place?” Raisi told Japan’s Motegi.
In 2019, a visit by Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe was overshadowed by mysterious attacks on tankers in the Gulf of Oman. One of the tankers was Japanese.
The president’s official website, president.ir, said that Motegi on Sunday discussed bilateral, regional and international issues with President Raisi.
The two-day visit is the first by a Japanese official since Raisi became Iran’s new president and the first since the Japanese prime minister visited Iran in 2019. Motegi is in Tehran at the official invitation of outgoing Iranian Foreign Minister Muhammad Javad Zarif.
Motegi was to meet with other Iranian officials, including Raisi’s nominated foreign minister, Hussein Amirabdollahian and other high-ranking officials during his two-day visit.
Secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) Ali Shamkhani told Motegi U.S. policies, which aim to foment tensions, will have dangerous consequences for the entire world and West Asia in particular.
Shamkhani also touched on talks to revive the JCPOA, saying “the way to solve the impasse created by the U.S. is to secure the rights of the Iranian people.”
The Japanese foreign minister underlined the significance of the JCPOA as an international agreement, saying the United States must stop its excessive demands to revive the deal.
Motegi also said his country is interested in expanding relations with Tehran and expressed hope that ties would improve under the new Iranian administration.
Official IRNA news agency said Motegi’s visit to Tehran is aimed at boosting bilateral relations with Iran and furthering diplomatic efforts to de-escalate and stabilize the Middle East.
During Sunday’s meeting, Raisi welcomed efforts by Japan and other countries to help establish peace and stability in Afghanistan and the region. “Iran has always supported peace and stability in Afghanistan. Of course, we believe that Afghans should make their own decisions in Afghanistan.”
Raisi said he is opposed to the creation of insecurity in the region, adding: “The presence of Americans in the region, including Afghanistan, has not provided security.”
Motegi said Tokyo also supports diplomatic efforts by regional countries to achieve peace and stability in the region. He said Japan believes problems should be resolved peacefully and through dialogue.
Earlier on Sunday, Motegi met with Zarif and the two also discussed de-escalation of tensions in the region.
“In what is probably my last meeting with a counterpart as Iran’s foreign minister, we discussed strengthening bilateral relations, how to resuscitate the JCPOA and the catastrophic U.S.-engineered situation in Afghanistan,” Zarif tweeted.
Recently, Japan donated some 3 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccine to Iran.
“Relations between Iran and Japan, as two important powers in the West and East Asia, have always been important. The two states have enjoyed friendly relations over the 90 years of diplomatic ties, which are based on common interests. Currently, consultations are underway between the two countries at the highest levels regarding bilateral and multilateral issues,” Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said earlier.