ANKARA   -   Japan on Thursday offered to ease tensions in the Middle East, while expressing concern about a standoff between the US and Iran. “We are concerned that the situation in the Middle East is getting extremely tense,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif at the outset of their meeting in Tokyo. Tokyo-based daily the Mainichi reported that Japanese leaders promised Zarif that they will do their best to ease tensions and try to resolve outstanding issues. Japan was Zarif’s next stop after travelling to India where he held talks with his counterpart Sushma Swaraj to discuss US sanctions on Iranian exports.

Iranian foreign minister also met his Japanese counterpart Taro Kono where the two discussed situation in the Middle East and the nuclear deal. Zarif called the escalation of the tensions “unacceptable” and said Tehran has exercised “maximum restraint” despite the development.

Zarif told Kono that Iran was committed to the deal and sought international support to maintain the accord. The two agreed on the importance of maintaining the nuclear deal.  “It is essential to maintain this scheme, not only for our bilateral relations but also for the international nonproliferation regime and peace and stability in the Middle East,” said Kono.

Iran last week suspended some commitments under the nuclear deal which was designed to curb Iran’s nuclear activities in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions. Iran announced that it will keep more enriched uranium than allowed under the nuclear deal initially sealed with the United States, France, Britain, Germany, Russia and China. Tehran has set a 60-day deadline to negotiate new terms.

Reports from New Delhi suggest that Zarif received cold response from the Narendra Modi government which is busy in elections. Swaraj is reported to have told Zarif that any decision with regard to continuing oil imports from Iran will be taken by the new government, expected to be in office by last week of May.