(As delivered)



29 AUGUST 2007

Thank you, Mr. President.

I would like to express my appreciation to you for convening this open debate on the situation in the Middle East, an issue of paramount importance to international peace and security. It is a great honor for me to address this august body just one day after presenting my credentials to the Secretary-General. I would like to join other speakers in thanking Mr. Michael Williams, Personal Representative of the Secretary-General, for his comprehensive briefing and pay tribute to him for all that he has accomplished in the course of his long and distinguished career at the United Nations.

There have been a number of significant events and developments in the Middle East in recent months. We welcome in particular the convening of the summit meetings between the leaders of Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) that have taken place since July, which are contributing to the establishment of a good atmosphere conducive to further dialogues on the whole range of issues of mutual concern. The international community should make best efforts to keep such momentum and to promote their dialogues.

Mr. President,

I would like to affirm that Japan remains fully committed to engaging actively in the peace process and providing utmost tangible support to President Abbas, the legitimate leader of the Palestinian Authority, and the new government led by Prime Minister Fayyad in their endeavors to achieve peace, recognizing that the only way toward the realization of the peace in the Middle East is to materialize co-existence and co-prosperity between Israel and Palestine.

It was to these ends that the Government of Japan announced on the occasion of the recent visit by then-Foreign Minister Aso in mid-August to Jordan, Israel, and the Palestinian territories its decision to provide a new package of assistance valued at over 20 million US dollars. It consists of 11.2 million dollars in direct financial assistance to the Palestinian Authority and 9.3 million dollars in food aid, medicine, and other humanitarian assistance to the Palestinian territories. Japan will consider further assistance to the Palestinian Authority for a self-sustainable Palestinian economy.

In this connection, Japan has been advancing the concept of the "Corridor for Peace and Prosperity," to which the distinguished representative of Bangladesh referred a few minutes ago; a development plan aimed at contributing to the creation of a viable Palestinian economy based on the private sector, by establishing an agro-industrial park in the West Bank and facilitating the transportation of goods from the West Bank to mainly the Gulf States through Jordan. On the 15th of August this year, Japan's Foreign Minister organized the second ministerial-level meeting of the Four-Party Consultative Unit in Jericho in the West Bank, with the participation of Vice Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Livni of Israel, Head of the Negotiations Affairs Department of the PLO Dr. Erakat, and Foreign Minister Khatib of Jordan. At the meeting, an agreement was reached on the building of an agro-industrial park in the southern part of the Jericho Governorate. The parties welcomed such initiative as a catalyst to confidence building between the parties concerned. For instance, Foreign Minister Livni made a remark to the effect that the visits made to Jericho in quick succession by the Prime Minister and then the Foreign Minister of Israel were a symbolic indication of the very beginning of the normalization between Israel and Palestine. Dr. Erakat on his part said that the concept of the "Corridor for Peace and Prosperity" would help to give the Palestinians a future.

Japan believes in order to promote the peace process, it is critically important for Palestinians to maintain hope for the future, and it is therefore appropriate that we should address the problem from both the political and economic aspects in parallel.

Mr. President,

While there are such encouraging developments, much remains to be done. Among the subjects that must be taken up are improving security, problems of the settlements and the security barrier in the West Bank, easing movement and access, continuing the transfer of tax and customs revenues, and releasing the Israeli soldier abducted by Hamas and more Palestinian prisoners in Israel. It is also essential to restore unity to the West Bank and Gaza Strip in order to realize a shared goal of a two-state solution, and the involvement of the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip in the peace process is of critical importance. Japan strongly urges both Israeli and Palestinian sides to redouble their efforts toward these ends.

In the view of the series of important international gatherings scheduled this year, Japan for its part will continue to play a proactive role in advancing peace process in cooperation with its partners in the international community, taking full stock of the parallel good offices efforts including those of the relevant Arab countries to advance the Arab Peace Initiative.

Mr. President,

Before concluding, let me touch briefly upon the situation in Lebanon. Japan supports the efforts of the Lebanese Government, under the leadership of Prime Minister Siniora, to achieve stability in the country. We hope the concerned parties and factions in that country will engage in efforts to promote stability and reconstruction, through dialogue and without resort to violence.

There remain many challenges in Lebanon that must be addressed in order to achieve full implementation of Security Council resolution 1701 and stabilization of the situation. The permanent ceasefire and long-term solution requires the international community to tackle vigorously tasks including arms embargo, the disarming and disbanding of all remaining militias and delineation of the borders. We are deeply concerned that the two Israeli soldiers abducted by Hizbullah have not been returned and that in fact no proof of life has even been provided. A comprehensive peace that includes both the Lebanese and Syrian tracks is the only way to achieve permanent peace in the region. From that point of view, Japan expects Syria to play an active role in the realization of regional peace and stability.

Thank you, Mr. President.

Related Information (Middle East Peace Process)
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