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Japanese FM: We Welcome De-escalation Efforts in Syria | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Japan’s Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida (facign camera) sits facing his South Korean counterpart Yun Byung-Se during their meeting at the Foreign Ministry in Seoul December 28, 2015. REUTERS/Jung Yeon-je/Pool

Tokyo – Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida said his country welcomed US-Russian efforts to ease tensions in Syria, noting that a political process was crucial to rebuild the war-torn country.

In an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper in Tokyo, Kishida praised the liberation of Mosul and the imminent liberation of Raqqa from ISIS terrorist group, while stressing that humanitarian crises would continue even after the freeing of the two cities, for several reasons, including the exodus of a large population from those areas.

“The fight against terrorism and violent extremism is expected to continue not only in the Middle East, but also in the international community as a whole,” he stated.

On the relations with Saudi Arabia, the Japanese foreign minister described the Kingdom as a key for stability in the Middle East, stressing that Tokyo and Riyadh were seeking to forge a strategic partnership to achieve Vision 2030.

“Saudi Arabia is a key for the Middle East stability and prosperity. It is also one of the pillars of Japan’s economic security policy,” Kishida said.

“Since the establishment of diplomatic relations between Japan and Saudi Arabia in 1955, the two countries have enjoyed good relations in all fields, including strong relationship between the Japanese imperial family and the Saudi royal family,” he added.

He continued that his country regards Saudi Arabia as an important partner in the field of economic security, as well as in commerce, culture, politics and security.

He noted that during the visit of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to Tokyo last September, discussions focused on the means to boost cooperation in order to achieve Saudi Vision 2030.

Kishida listed several cooperation fields between the two countries, including commerce, investment, tourism, education, infrastructure, technology and cultural exchange.

He added that 41 Saudi and Japanese ministries and institutions were working on the “Saudi-Japanese Vision 2030”, which aims at promoting non-oil industries and creating new job opportunities, among other objectives.

Asked about the crisis with North Korea and the US efforts in this regard, the Japanese foreign minister said: “It is essential that we maintain the US deterrent power at a time when the security situation is escalating in the region. We, in Japan, highly appreciate the positions of the [US President Donald] Trump Administration, which show in words and deeds that all options are on the table.”

He continued: “It should be noted that the US government has indicated its intention to tighten the pressure on North Korea by diplomatic and economic means, and to demand effective responses from China. The positions of Japan and the United States are consistent in this regard.”

Back to the Syrian file, Kishida underlined the need for the concerned parties to commit to the agreement over the ceasefire and the de-escalation zones, in order to improve the humanitarian situation and boost the political process, in cooperation with the international community.

He also said his country welcomed joint efforts deployed by the US and Russia for this purpose.

Asked about Japan’s assistance to Syria, the official said: “Since 2012, Japan has provided around $1.9 billion in aid to Syria, Iraq and neighboring countries.”

“This year, Japan also decided to provide humanitarian assistance worth up to $260 million through international and non-governmental organizations to the above-mentioned countries,” he added.

He noted that his country dedicated $77 million to the Syrian refugees in order rehabilitate the electricity sector, help build the capacity of human resources of young Syrians and empower women.

Kishida underlined the need to find a political solution to the crisis as the only means to rebuild the country.

“Japan will continue to provide humanitarian assistance and support the political processes in cooperation with the international community,” he stated.

While he welcomed the liberation of Mosul, the foreign minister warned that the humanitarian crisis would continue due to the departure of a great number of residents from the liberated areas.

“We are determined to provide humanitarian assistance and support the stability of the abovementioned countries in all respects in order to spread the spirit of tolerance and cooperation in the Middle East that will generate peace and stability,” he said.