Iran hopes tensions in Middle East won't escalate: Zarif

Tokyo, Aug 28 (IANS) Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Wednesday that he hopes tensions in the Middle East will not escalate further.

During a meeting in Yokohama city, Zarif discussed with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe the standoff following the US withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal. The pact was signed between Iran and world's major powers.

"Iran welcomes the Japanese government's role in trying to ease tensions in the Middle East," the Iranian Minister said.

Abe, for his part, said that Japan will continue with its diplomatic efforts to try and ease the escalating tensions in the Middle East.

"Japan will persistently continue our diplomatic efforts to deal with rising tensions in the Middle East and stabilize the current situation," he said.

Zarif's trip to Japan follows his visit on Sunday to Biarritz, France, where the Group of Seven summit was held. There, he spoke to French President Emmanuel Macron about tensions between Tehran and Washington.

Amid a possible plan by the US to form a Maritime Security Initiative -- also known as Operation Sentinel -- to be present in some key Middle East shipping lanes, Japanese Defence Minister Takeshi Iwaya said that diplomatic efforts to ease tensions between Washington and Teheran remained the most important way forward.

Following US President Donald Trump's pulling Washington out of the nuclear accord and restoring sanctions on Iran, Tehran said it planned to keep more enriched uranium than permitted under the pact.

Tensions, thereafter, have risen in the Middle East, with the US sending a carrier strike force, B-52 bombers, as well as armed troops to the Gulf.

Tensions further spiked after a US drone was downed in June, with Washington warning of, but later cancelling, a planned, limited military strike.

--IANS

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