President Hassan Rouhani on Saturday called on Japanese companies to invest in Iran as he wrapped up his two-day state visit to Japan.
Before leaving for Tehran, Rouhani held a meeting at a Tokyo hotel with Japanese business leaders, during which he criticized US sanctions and expressed hope for strengthening long-standing ties with Japan.
He said Tehran and Tokyo need to find ways to circumvent US sanctions against Iranian economy after Washington pulled out of a multilateral nuclear deal between the Islamic Republic and world powers.
“The US pressure on Iran and other countries is a bitter reality we are facing today, but what is important is that we should find a way under such tough circumstances to continue having trade and cooperation and take steps to serve the interests of the two nations,” he said.
Rouhani said Japanese firms “can invest in Iran and we can provide them with the necessary commitments”, noting that “illegal sanctions cannot continue for long” and that the US “will have to abandon” its “pointless, hurtful” approach.
He once again declared Iran’s readiness to sit down for talks with the US if it lifts economic sanctions and returns to the 2015 nuclear deal.
Known formally as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the nuclear deal was agreed between Britain, China, France, Russia, and the United States, plus Germany.
The JCPOA has been at risk of falling apart since US President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from it in May last year and reimposed sanctions.
“We have no problem in holding talks with the United States about our issues, but the US should return from the wrong path it has been treading over the past one and a half years,” Rouhani said.
Rouhani, during a summit with Prime Minister Abe Shinzo on Friday, had called on Japan and other countries to help the Iranian economy.
"We welcome any plan that can increase trade, especially in the field of energy, and enhance exports and sales of oil," he told Abe.
Ahead of that summit, Rouhani also condemned Washington for "unilaterally and irrationally" withdrawing from the nuclear deal, saying, "I hope Japan and other countries will make efforts to maintain this deal."
As a key US ally that also maintains close diplomatic and economic ties with Iran, Abe has tried to build bridges between the two adversaries.
"The two leaders agreed to maintain their close communications," a Japanese government official said.
Abe traveled to Tehran in June to try to ease tensions between the United States and Iran in the Persian Gulf.
Japan was formerly a major buyer of Iranian crude but stopped purchases to comply with US sanctions.
"Japan would like to do its utmost to ease tensions and stabilize the situation in the Middle East," Abe told Rouhani Friday.
“I strongly expect that Iran will fully comply with the nuclear agreement and play a constructive role for peace and stability in the region,” he noted.
The PM further said Japan had consistently supported the JCPOA and now continues its efforts to keep it alive.
“Japan has started cooperation with the three European countries [regarding the deal].”
AFP contributed to this story.