US President Donald Trump discussed with Japanese Premier Shinzo Abe Friday recent attacks on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman, Anadolu Agency reports.
The telephone call follows the conclusion of Abe’s recent visit to Iran in which he sought to diffuse simmering tensions between Washington and Tehran that hit a boiling point Thursday when the ships were attacked.
The leaders discussed the visit as well as the “circumstances surrounding the attacks,” the White House said in a statement.
“President Trump thanked Prime Minister Abe for his effort to facilitate communication with Iran,” the White House said.
Trump said Thursday it is “too soon” for the U.S. to engage in nuclear talks with Iran just minutes before Washington blamed Tehran for the attacks on the oil tankers near the Gulf of Oman, which is a critical waterway for the global energy trade.
Shortly after meeting with Abe, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said in remarks carried by Iranian state news agency FARS that he did not see Trump as deserving of a message from him.
“I do not consider Trump, as a person, deserving to exchange messages with. We will not negotiate with the United States,” he said, according to FARS.
Tensions between Washington and Tehran have been at a fever pitch since Trump unilaterally withdrew the U.S. in May 2018 from an international pact aimed at reigning in Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for billions of dollars in relief from economic sanctions.
The Trump administration has since gone on to attempt to scuttle the agreement, which all other signatories — France, Russia, Germany, the UK, China, Iran and the EU — remain a party to.
The attempts to undermine the deal have included the reimposition of US sanctions on Iran oil exports that were lifted as part of the agreement.
That decision, in particular, drew strong condemnation from Iran amid a near-ceaseless diplomatic and economic effort the administration terms its “maximum pressure campaign” to bring Iran back to negotiations that would address its nuclear program and other regional activities the US says are destabilising.
Also on Thursday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo accused Iran of being responsible for the attacks near the Strait of Hormuz, describing the attacks as part of “an unacceptable campaign of escalating tension by Iran.”
The top diplomat said the US assessment is based on intelligence, the weapons that were used, the level of expertise needed to carry out the attacks, as well as other recent attacks on ships in the region the US has blamed on Iran.
The US on Friday released grainy video footage it says shows Iranian forces removing a mine from the hull of one of the ships that came under attack. The tanker, the Kokuka Courageous, is Japanese owned.
The strait is vital waterway with roughly one-third of the world’s liquefied natural gas and a fifth of its oil consumption transiting through it each day.