MUSCAT: Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe met Oman’s new sultan yesterday on his last leg of a Gulf tour amid regional tensions after the US killing of a top Iranian general. Abe and Haitham bin Tareq, who took office last week following the death of long-serving Sultan Qaboos, agreed to cooperate for regional stability and to develop their bilateral relations, said a Japanese foreign ministry statement.
Abe also offered his condolences for the death of Sultan Qaboos, who died Friday aged 79. Under Qaboos, Muscat acted as a regional and international go-between, including during a discreet dialogue between Tehran and Washington that led to a 2015 deal over Iran’s nuclear program. US President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from the accord in 2018, reimposing sanctions and a campaign of “maximum pressure” against Tehran. Abe’s Gulf trip had initially been thrown into doubt after the US drones killed the head of Iran’s Quds Force, Qasem Soleimani.
Iran responded by launching a barrage of missiles at bases hosting American troops in Iraq. But the Japanese premier’s five-day tour went ahead, including talks with top officials in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Abe has warned that military confrontation with Iran will impact global peace and stability. His comments came at the start of a five-day Gulf tour that had been thrown into doubt after Tehran responded to the attack on Qasem Soleimani by launching a barrage of missiles at bases hosting American troops in Iraq, prompting fears of all-out war.
But as those concerns receded, the Japanese premier decided to go ahead with the visit and on Sunday discussed regional tensions during an hour-long meeting with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in northwestern Al-Ula province, according to foreign ministry spokesman Masato Ohtaka.
“Any military confrontation in the region that includes a country like Iran will have an impact not only on peace and stability in the region but the peace and stability of the whole world,” Abe said, according to Ohtaka. Abe called “on all relevant countries to engage in diplomatic efforts to defuse tensions”, Ohtaka added.
The spokesman said the two leaders agreed on working closely on maritime security in the region and discussed Tokyo’s decision to send a destroyer for intelligence activities along with two P-3C patrol aircraft to the Middle East. Japan, however, will not join a US-led coalition in the region. Tokyo has walked a fine line in balancing its key alliance with Washington and its longstanding relations and interests with Tehran. Ohtaka said that Abe stressed the importance of a continuous and stable Saudi oil supply to Japan. – AFP