As an advanced, energy-hungry economy with few natural resources of its own, Japan’s concern for the safety of Middle East–Asian trade has become more acute. Accordingly, speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat at the start of his second visit to the Middle East in less than a year, Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe expressed great concern about the impact of the human cost of the ongoing crisis in Syria and the potentially devastating costs should instability and chaos spread across the region.
In a statement to Asharq Al-Awsat, Abe said his country has announced a new plan to provide assistance to the Syrian districts deprived of humanitarian aid from the Syrian government and international organizations. He added: “It is our intention that Japan will continue to perform its role as much as it can.”
He pointed to a plan in which Japan has offered USD 95 million in urgent humanitarian aid, separate from loans with favorable terms to Jordan with an estimated value of USD 120 million.
The Japanese prime minister’s statement to Asharq Al-Awsat was issued on the sidelines of a tour that took him to four Middle Eastern states. The tour will last for six days starting Saturday, and will take him to Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar and Djibouti, where he will discuss a number of issues and aspects of cooperation. The aim of the visits is to enhance Japan’s bilateral relations with the Middle East, Abe said during his recent visits to Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Turkey.
Abe said “In other words, we are looking forward to expanding what can be called a comprehensive partnership towards stability and prosperity, and this incorporates Bahrain, Kuwait and Qatar.”
He went on to say: “My aim is to develop multifaceted cooperative relations with all these states on a larger scale. This incorporates economy, politics, security, agriculture, medicine and education, and is not limited to energy alone. These relationships could be based on three major pillars: First, cooperation represented by boosting relations in areas of politics and security. Second, coexistence and mutual prosperity, which means broadening and deepening economic ties. Third, tolerance and mutual assistance, which means boosting and exchanging culture and visits between nations.”
Abe went on to add that during his visits, “based on these targets, I will share viewpoints with the leaders of these countries about the state of affairs in the region and about mutual cooperation in broader areas.”
Speaking of the current state of affairs in Egypt, the Japanese premier said: “Japan is concerned about the current state of affairs in Egypt and feels deeply worried about this. Thus Japan is calling upon all parties to cease violence, exercise self-control and have a sense of responsibility.”
He added: “We are hopeful that stability will be achieved in Egypt in the soonest time possible, for it is considered to be a pivotal state in the region. We are also hopeful that steps will be taken towards democracy and towards respect for both human rights and the law.”
Speaking of his visit to the region, the second in four months, and of his view of the issue of peace between Palestine and Israel, the Japanese Prime Minister said: “achieving peace in the Middle East is considered a historic issue in the region, and the region’s stability is of direct importance to the stability of the international community, including Japan.”
He indicated that this problem can be solved only by means of dialogue and direct contact between relevant parties. The international community must effectively back the direct negotiations between the two sides that were resumed late last month, he said.
Abe argued that Japan is making strenuous, in coordination with the international community, efforts to promote stability in the region and that it backs the peace process. He added that his country provides economic assistance and is seeking to build trust, citing as evidence Japan’s calls to the youth of Palestine and Israel to visit Japan to start the “Peace and Prosperity Passage” initiative, a measure Japan has taken with Israel and Jordan to help move towards independence for the Palestinian economy.
The Japanese attempt incorporates a cooperation conference between East Asian states for the discussion of Palestinian development. The objective of the conference is to use Japanese expertise to promote calls for aiding the Palestinians, over and above diplomatic attempts and contact with the two sides by sending senior Japanese officials and envoys abroad.
Abe went on to say that “I would like to affirm that Japan is working with regional states to reach solutions for the problems of the region. It is essential to understand the importance of stability to the region through establishing multiple relationships with regional states that could be initiated by economic and energy links, and then extend to these cover the areas of politics and culture as well as exchange visits between nations.”
He added “based on this idea, I paid two visits to the Middle East region last year. The Japanese foreign minister, Fumio Kishida, also visited the region to boost Japan’s relations with regional states.”