"The World and Japan" Database (Project Leader: TANAKA Akihiko)
Database of Japanese Politics and International Relations
National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies (GRIPS); Institute for Advanced Studies on Asia (IASA), The University of Tokyo

[Title] Role of the Japanese Diplomacy, Masahiko Shibayama, Parliamentary Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs

[Date] March 31, 2009
[Source] Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan
[Full text]

First of all, I would like to thank the Arab diplomatic corps in Tokyo for organizing the Arab-Japan Week 2009 and inviting me to this important Symposium on the Peace Prospective in the Middle East and Japan's Role. It is a great honor and pleasure for me to be here today.

Now we have just listened to three excellent presentations on the Middle East peace process from three distinguished ambassadors from the region. I have learned a lot and would like to express my sincere gratitude to the ambassadors.

As we all know, the Arab-Israeli conflict is the most intractable of all regional conflicts in the world. At the same time, we also know that if we could achieve peace in Palestine, the Middle East as a whole would become much more stable and prosperous. As a country which imports nearly 90% of its crude oil from the Middle East, the stability of the region is of vital importance to Japan. Therefore, we would like to do whatever we can to help achieve peace in the region.

Of course, Japan is not a direct party to the conflict. Nor do we have deep historical, racial and religious ties to the region unlike Europe and America. We have no disillusion about our ability to mediate peace among direct parties. Nevertheless, I believe that Japan has a useful role to play as a third party who sincerely wishes to see peace prevail in the region.

In order to achieve a just, lasting and comprehensive peace, it is a matter of course that Israeli and Palestinian people should work together, but at the same time, the support of the regional countries is essential as well as that of the international community. For this reason, Japan highly appreciates the Arab Peace Initiative launched at the Arab League Summit in Beirut in 2002 at the initiative of King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. Despite all the difficulties, I sincerely hope that Arab countries will continue to support the peace process by promoting this initiative. For our part, Japan will do its best to urge Israel to seriously consider this initiative.

Japan strongly supports the so-called two state solution which aims at establishing a Palestinian state living in peace and prosperity side by side with Israel. To help achieve that goal, we have been making particular efforts to contribute to developing a viable Palestinian economy through various economic assistance programs. Since 1993, when the present peace process started by the Oslo accord, Japan has provided nearly one billion US dollars to Palestinian people, accounting for approximately 10% of the total international assistance to the Palestinians.

I would like to stress that we are promoting not only economic assistance but also promoting political dialogue and confidence-building. Our "Corridor for Peace and Prosperity" initiative is a project which tries to combine all of these efforts in one project. Through this initiative, we would like to provide Palestinian people with not only money but hope for the future.

With regard to the peace process at this juncture, we are concerned about its future because there seem to be tremendous difficulties in both camps. On the one hand, we are carefully following the development in Israel to form a new government. On the other hand, we are concerned about the division on the Palestinian side and are hoping to see a positive outcome from the Palestinian national reconciliation dialogue mediated by Egypt. In connection with the reconstruction of Gaza, which has always be on our mind particularly since the end of last year, Japan announced that it would provide $200 million in assistance for the Palestinians over the coming years on the occasion of the International Conference in Support of the Palestinian Economy for the Reconstruction of Gaza.

One of the encouraging elements is the commitment of the new US administration to the peace process. We welcome the appointment of Senator Michel as US Special Envoy for the Middle East Peace. As a close ally of the United States, we would like to talk and cooperate with them so that US policies will be successful in advancing the peace process not only on the Palestinian front but also on the Syrian and other fronts as well.

Before concluding my remarks, let me emphasize the importance of our cooperation with the Arab League with its 22 members. The importance of the Middle East is gaining weight well beyond our old and simplistic dependence on oil and we are hoping to build a multi-layered relationship. Yesterday and today, our Special Envoy for the Middle East, Dr. Tatsuo Arima, is attending the Arab League Summit in Doha as an observer for the sixth time. I have also learned that responding to the proposal from the Arab League, we are scheduled to host the first Japan-Arab Economic Forum in Tokyo later this year. With the cooperation of the Arab diplomatic corps in Tokyo, I believe that it will lay another new foundation for the future cooperation between Japan and the Arab world.

Thank you very much for your attention.