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Japan's Abe pledges support for Mideast countries battling ISIS - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe attends a joint meeting of the Japan-Egypt business committee in Cairo, Egypt, Saturday, Jan. 17, 2015.  (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe attends a joint meeting of the Japan-Egypt business committee in Cairo, Egypt, Saturday, Jan. 17, 2015. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

Cairo, Reuters—Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe warned on Saturday that the world would suffer an “immeasurable loss” if terrorism spreads in the Middle East and pledged about 200 million US dollars in non-military assistance for countries battling the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

The threat of Islamist militancy has come into sharp focus outside the Middle East after gunmen killed 17 people in three days of violence in Paris that began on Jan. 7 with an attack on the offices of a newspaper that had published satirical images of the Prophet Muhammad.

ISIS controls large parts of OPEC oil producer Iraq and neighboring Syria, has declared a caliphate and wants to redraw the map of a region vital for Japan’s energy needs.

“It goes without saying that the stability of the Middle East is the foundation for peace and prosperity for the world, and of course for Japan,” Abe said in Cairo in the first leg of a regional tour.

“Should we leave terrorism or weapons of mass destruction to spread in this region, the loss imparted upon the international community would be immeasurable.”

Highlighting his concern, Abe told a meeting of the Japan-Egypt Business Committee that Tokyo would provide non-military financial backing for countries fighting the Al-Qaeda breakaway group, also known as ISIS.

“I will pledge assistance of a total of about 200 million US dollars for those countries contending with ISIS, to help build their human capacities, infrastructure, and so on,” said Abe.

Stability has remained elusive in the Middle East since the Arab Spring uprisings toppled veteran autocrats and raised hopes of democracy and economic prosperity.

“There is no shortcut to nipping violence in the bud. There is no way other than bringing stability to people’s livelihoods and fostering a middle class, even if it takes time,” Abe said.

In addition to the 2.2 billion US dollars in assistance Japan pledged for the Middle East two years ago, Abe said his government would provide another 2.5 billion US dollars in non-military assistance in fields such as humanitarian assistance and infrastructure.

“The Middle East . . .that’s the region endowed with great possibilities,” said Abe, whose tour will also include Jordan, the Palestinian territories, Lebanon and Turkey.

“And yet now it appears to be no exaggeration to say that the region is exposed to a challenge that is among the most serious in its modern history.”

The Japanese leader stressed the need for economic growth in the Middle East, where militants often try to exploit frustrations with issues such as unemployment and neglected schools to gain recruits.

Security crackdowns alone have failed to defeat militancy in Egypt, the most populous Arab country, and other states as well.

Japan will provide Egypt with 360 million US dollars in loans for projects including an airport and a power grid in a country suffering from an energy crisis, Abe said.

“These are intended to contribute to Egypt’s development, and by extension, to widening the foundation for stability across the entire region,” he added.

Aside from tackling ISIS, the region and Western leaders also face the daunting task of securing serious progress on the Israeli and Palestinian front.

“Japan believes that the day will come in the near future when we can recognize Palestine as a state,” said Abe.

“In order for that day to arrive sooner, we will appeal to both Israel and Palestine to resume negotiations to advance the so-called two-state solution.”

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat is the world’s premier pan-Arab daily newspaper, printed simultaneously each day on four continents in 14 cities. Launched in London in 1978, Asharq Al-Awsat has established itself as the decisive publication on pan-Arab and international affairs, offering its readers in-depth analysis and exclusive editorials, as well as the most comprehensive coverage of the entire Arab world.

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