Last updated: 11 May, 2014

Iran seen on agenda as Israel PM visits Japan

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrived in Tokyo Sunday for a summit with his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe at which he is expected to raise the Iranian nuclear talks and economic cooperation.

Netanyahu is likely to press Japan to side with Israel over nuclear talks between Iran and six world powers when he meets Abe Monday afternoon, the Asahi Shimbun reported.

Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany will begin their talks in Vienna on Tuesday when they start drafting the text of a comprehensive and potentially historic deal.

In a nutshell, such an accord would reduce the scale of the Islamic republic’s atomic programme so as to render any dash to make nuclear weapons extremely difficult and easily detectable.

In return, all UN Security Council sanctions and additional unilateral sanctions targeting Iran’s lifeblood oil exports would be lifted.

Netanyahu is likely to call on Abe to oppose the lifting of sanctions, reflecting Israel’s position that nothing short of a total dismantling of Iran’s nuclear programme is acceptable, the Asahi said.

Japan, which is heavily dependent on Middle Eastern oil, has maintained friendly relations with Iran through its years of ostracism, keeping up a diplomatic dialogue that many developed countries cut off decades ago.

Along with China, India and South Korea, Japan is among Iran’s biggest oil export markets.

The West and Israel have long suspected Iran is pursuing a nuclear weapons capability alongside its civilian programme, something Tehran denies.

But since President Hassan Rouhani took office in Iran in August, hopes have been raised of an end to the long-running crisis.

A senior Israeli official told AFP in Jerusalem that the two sides would be discussing security issues from both regions.

“As part of the political dialogue, we’ll be sharing our concerns about the Iranian nuclear programme, they have their own concerns about the North Korean programme, I’m sure we have a lot in common,” the official said.

Abe and Netanyahu are also expected to agree to strengthen cooperation on countering cyber-attacks, Kyodo News reported, citing a government source.

They are also likely to agree to hold a security dialogue at their level and to increase exchanges between their defence officials, it said.

On the economic front, Netanyahu will likely to give a sales pitch for Israeli technologies as he will meet with Japanese business leaders on Tuesday, local media reported.