1036 GMT April 08, 2020
Japan: Russia supports plan to help ease US-Iran tensions
US President Donald Trump reiterated on Thursday that America is prepared for negotiations with Iran if the Islamic Republic is ready for talks.
“I even want to get along with Iran and Iran wants to talk. And if they want to talk, I am available,” Trump told reporters during an impromptu news conference in the White House.
Trump said that Iran’s economy is suffering from US sanctions and that sanctions have weakened Iran.
"Just as [China], Iran has become a weakened nation. And Iran wants to make a deal also."
Trump pulled out the US from a multilateral nuclear deal between Iran and world powers last year and ratcheted up sanctions in efforts to shut down Iran’s economy by ending its oil exports and disconnecting its banks from global financial systems.
Under the deal, Iran curbed its nuclear program in return for sanctions relief.
Trump’s hawkish National Security Adviser John Bolton told reporters during a visit to London on Thursday that the US does not want regime change in Iran.
Asked whether he was at odds with Trump, who said earlier this week in Japan that the US was not looking for regime change in Iran, he said: "The policy we're pursuing is not a policy of regime change. That's the fact and everybody should understand it that way."
Trump said on Monday that “Iran would like to make a deal, and I think that’s very smart of them, and I think that’s a possibility to happen.”
Trump also welcomed Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's help in easing tensions with Iran, after Japanese broadcaster NHK reported that Abe was considering a trip to Tehran as early as mid-June.
The US president said he'd back Abe's efforts to open a communication with Iran.
After a meeting of Japan and Russia's foreign and defense ministers, an official in Tokyo said on Thursday that Russia has expressed support for Japan's intention to play a role in helping ease tensions between Iran and the United States.
"Traditionally Japan has had friendly ties with Iran," a Japanese Foreign Ministry official told a media briefing after the meeting of the four ministers.
"There were comments from the Japanese side that Japan aims to play a role by taking advantage of such ties. The Russian side made a very positive comment in response," the official said.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga has denied the NHK report aired last Friday, but most major Japanese newspapers have followed up with similar reports since then.
Iran’s conditions for talks
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Wednesday that talks with the United States is possible only if Washington will lift sanctions and meet its commitments under the 2015 nuclear deal.
“Whenever they lift the unjust sanctions and fulfill their commitments and return to the negotiating table, which they themselves left, the road is not closed,” Rouhani said.
He added that Iran does not base its decisions on words and needs to see actions in place.
“Our people judge you by your actions, not your words” Rouhani added.
Later in the day, Iran’s Leader Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei, however, rejected negotiations with US.
“We said before that we will not negotiate with America, because negotiation has no benefit and carries harm,” Ayatollah Khamenei said Wednesday.
He said Iran had no problems negotiating with Europeans and other countries, but added, “We will not negotiate over the core values of the revolution. We will not negotiate over our military capabilities.”
The Leader referred to negotiations as a tactic used by Americans to complement their strategy of pressure.
Tensions have risen between Iran and the United States since Washington deployed military resources including a carrier strike group and bombers and announced plans to deploy 1,500 troops to the Middle East, prompting fears of a conflict.
Iran has called the deployment "very dangerous and a threat to international peace and security."
AP and Reuters contributed to this story.