Statement by Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs Akiko Yamanaka
at the 13th U Thant Distinguished Lecture by Former President of Iran Mohammad Khatami

Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs Akiko Yamanaka

August 25, 2006

Your Excellency Mr. Mohammad Khatami, Former President of the Islamic Republic of Iran,
Distinguished Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I sincerely welcome President Khatami to Japan and to the U Thant Distinguished Lecture Series. I also express my heartfelt gratitude to Hans van Kinkel, Rector of United Nations University for your efforts in arranging this lecture.

From 1997 to 2005 when H.E. Mr. Khatami was President, Iran went through drastic changes.

President Khatami greatly improved Iran's relations with the West and neighboring countries, advocating the principle of "dialogue among civilizations." Domestically, President Khatami's policies based on such slogans as "rule of law" and "freedom of speech" brought about a wave of democracy in the country. My visit to Iran such as Shiraz, Ahvaz and Iraqi refugee camps in 2004 indeed made me realize that President Khatami was leading the country in the right direction.

As an academician and current MP as well as Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs, I firmly believe global prosperity will ultimately be achieved only through ensuring a high quality of life for people everywhere in the world. Grounded on this philosophy, Japan has been striving to contribute as much as it can for relief efforts in the wake of both natural and man-made disasters in Asia as well as the Middle East including Iran and Iraq.

Japan still needs to develop its ability in such fields as "human security" and "human development." Nonetheless it is launching a synthetic organized human development project on peace building phases for eminent young Asian personals as experts and specialists by taking Japan's initiative.

I believe that the philosophy on which Japan's policies rely shares numerous aspects with President Khatami's. The policies President Khatami espoused are indeed akin to Japan's human development policies, based upon our shared values such as democracy, free market economy, rule of law, and human rights. Inter-civilizational dialogue, moreover, is indeed what we both attach great importance to in enhancing the prosperity of the world community's prosperity.

In fact, in cooperation with the Islamic countries around the world, Japan has held "the seminar on the dialogue among the Islamic world and Japan," at the initiative of Speaker of the House of Representatives H.E. Mr. Kono. We have so far held four seminars, and the third of which was held in Tehran, thanks to Your Excellency's generous help.

I understand you will attend the World Assembly of Religions for Peace in Kyoto, which long ago prospered as our nation's capital and still is rich in tradition and history. I hope you have meaningful discussions at the assembly, and enjoy Japan's old capital.

President Khatami, recent events and incidents around the world force us to once again recognize the importance of "dialogue among civilizations." We must continue dialogue among people with diverse historical and cultural backgrounds, respect each other's values, and strive for a better world where we all, from different races, various religions and divergent cultures, may live in safety and peace.

Let me conclude with my deep belief that your coming speech, supported by your abundant experience as a man of thought and practice, will enrich all of us here.

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