DUBAI (Reuters) – Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe warned of unintended clashes in the crisis-hit Middle East after meeting the Iranian president in Tehran on Wednesday, amid a brewing confrontation between Iran and the United States.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani shakes hands with Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, during a welcome ceremony in Tehran, Iran, June 12, 2019. Official Iranian President website/Handout via REUTERS

As a U.S. ally that also has good diplomatic relations with Iran, Japan could be in a unique position to mediate between the Islamic Republic and the United States.

“Armed conflict needs to be prevented at all costs. Peace and stability in the Middle East is indispensable not only for this region but for global prosperity. No one is hoping for war,” the Japanese leader said.

“We would like to play the maximum role we can for easing tension. That is what brought me to Iran,” said Abe, whose two-day visit is the first by a Japanese leader to Iran since its 1979 Islamic Revolution.

While Abe did not mention Japan’s currently suspended purchases of Iranian oil, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said that Japan wants to keep buying Iranian oil.

“In our meeting, Mr. Abe said that Japan was interested in continuing buying Iran’s oil,” Rouhani told a joint news conference with Abe, broadcast live on state TV.

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