(Persia Digest) - Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif met Wednesday to discuss ways to ease rising tensions in the Middle East stemming from a standoff between Washington and Tehran over a 2015 nuclear deal.

The meeting follows Zarif's visit Sunday to Biarritz, the venue of a Group of Seven summit in France, where he talked about the issue with French President Emmanuel Macron.

The Mainichi reports that during the talks held in Yokohama, Abe is expected to call for continued diplomatic efforts to defuse regional tensions and urge Tehran to stick to commitments under the nuclear deal, from which the United States withdrew last year.

Tensions between Iran and the United States, Japan's most important security ally, are running high as Tehran has pushed its uranium enrichment activities to beyond the level agreed in the nuclear deal after the United States re-imposed sanctions on the country.

Iran and the six powers -- Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States -- sealed the deal which requires Tehran to limit its uranium enrichment activities in exchange for lifting sanctions on the country.

Tokyo has sought to broker dialogue between Washington and Tehran, with Abe traveling to Iran in June as the first sitting Japanese political leader to do so in over four decades.


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Washington and Tehran also remain at odds after a string of attacks on tankers near the Strait of Hormuz, which Washington has blamed on Tehran.

The United States has called for its allies to join the Maritime Security Initiative, also known as Operation Sentinel, aimed at safeguarding passage through the strait, the narrow sea lane through which about a fifth of the world's oil passes.

Although countries including Britain and Australia have announced their participation, Japan has remained hesitant out of concern that doing so would hurt its friendly ties with Iran.

The meeting was held in Yokohama as Abe co-hosts a three-day international conference on African development opening Wednesday afternoon in the city.

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