Speech by Prime Minister Abe "The Best Way Is to Go in the Middle"
1. The Best Way is in the Middle
Your Excellency Mr. Ibrahim Mahlab, Prime Minister of Egypt,
Members of the Japan-Egypt Business Committee,
Ladies and gentlemen,
Assalam alaikum jameean.
I am feeling pleased, very much pleased, that I have made it like this, to be in Egypt, a country that boasts history and civilization from time immemorial.
My current visit to the region is my fifth during the last two years, which I hope evidences how much my country holds the Middle East dear, and how much we pay respect to you all.
Two years ago, when I announced in Jidda Japan’s new policy towards the Middle East, I stated that I wished to make "harmony and tolerance (al-tasaamuh)," together with "coexistence and co-prosperity (al-ta'aaish)" and "collaboration (al-ta'aun)," our leading principles.
I have pursued our Middle East policy exactly along those principles. This time my attention is on the idea "Khair Al-Umuri Ausatoha" or, “the best way is in the middle,” which represents your ancestral wisdom.
Let me state it again: Khair Al-Umuri Ausatoha.
In terms of placing importance on tradition and valuing moderation, Japan and the Middle East share strong commonalities in our fundamental approaches to life.
Why do I say that the wisdom of Khair Al-Umuri Ausatoha should garner more attention? It is because we have a sense of impending crisis as to what currently surrounds the region, such as the expansion of extremism and the disturbance of the order.
2. Japan as the running mate of the Middle East
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.
Should we leave terrorism or weapons of mass destruction to spread in this region, the loss imparted upon the international community would be immeasurable.
Since the end of the Second World War, Japan has concentrated earnestly on building a nation that values freedom and democracy, human rights, and the rule of law.
The unwavering path we have taken to this day is one adhering to peace. Japan, which now bears the banner of “Proactive Contribution to Peace Based on the Principle of International Cooperation,” is determined to devote readily the experience, wisdom, and capacity it has nurtured towards enhancing world peace and stability.
That is the reason why we hold the region's stability dear. That is also the reason for our commitment to bringing it about. I hope you will understand that desire.
Based exactly on those thoughts, my government pledged two years ago assistance of 2.2 billion U.S. dollars towards the entire region of the Middle East. The entirety of that has already been put into execution. It is with tremendous pleasure I am reporting this to you here today.
A stable Middle East that is vibrant. A stable Middle East backed by the spirit of Khair Al-Umuri Ausatoha. A stable Middle East where people can live without anxiety.
Japan’s assistance always aims at no less than restoring stability in the region. I cannot help but wish for the people of Egypt and for the people throughout the region to be aware of that.
Let us just imagine how much potential you could unleash in Egypt, in the region, once your society has restored stability and again ensured the path towards growth. Japan wishes to be a never-failing running mate to you as you work towards that future.
That all said, here, to you, I will make another pledge. The Government of Japan will newly carry out assistance of 2.5 billion U.S. dollars in non-military fields including humanitarian assistance and infrastructure development, intended for the entire region.
3. Respect for Egypt’s efforts
Ladies and gentlemen, just before I set out on this journey, I came across one peculiar photograph. Dated 151 years ago, on April 4, 1864, it is the first-ever photograph to capture Japanese in Giza with the Sphinx in the background.
Over one and a half centuries, the Japanese have always been mesmerized by Egypt, with its history stretching back so many times longer than our own.
Furthermore I know that you always pay respect to those who work hard, diligently creating something valuable.
You take pride in the work you have thus accomplished, and you hold high esteem in dedicating yourselves to working, all of which has made it a tremendous pleasure for us to have worked with you in the construction of the GEM, or the Grand Egyptian Museum, and in the undertakings of E-JUST, the Egypt-Japan University of Science and Technology.
That you call the children's hospital Japan's assistance helped build “the Japanese hospital” even today, and that you remember the Canal Bridge was also constructed through assistance from Japan, as Prime Minister Mahlab is keenly aware, each of these makes us feel proud.
The friendship between us has always bridged together the Japanese and the Egyptians.
That very same Egypt is now engaged in intense efforts to bring about stability. That same Egypt continues its careful efforts towards democratization, tailored to the hearts and minds of the people of Egypt, rooted in history and traditions and based on the spirit that the best way is always in the middle, for you are aware, with a strong sense of responsibility, that once Egypt has become a country, peaceful and prosperous, where people can live without anxiety, the Middle East should leap forward and flourish. I support the path you are taking.
On behalf of the people of Japan, I wish to applaud your efforts wholeheartedly.
4. Japan’s pledge
Ladies and gentlemen,
The time has come to add a new page to our story of friendship that we have compiled over the years.
As Egypt becomes increasingly stable, the Middle East should develop and prosper tremendously.
I very much hope that those of you leading Japan's business community, with that belief in mind, get yourselves even more engaged in Egypt.
The Government of Japan will spare no effort in supporting your involvement.
We will assist in the expansion of Borg El-Arab International Airport, which is close and convenient to E-Just and to a promising industrial location.
We have decided to provide 360 million U.S. dollars in ODA loans as assistance for this project and for the development of the power grid.
Japan will provide state-of-the-art, environmentally friendly technologies as assistance towards your transportation infrastructure, like the Cairo Metro, as well as renewable energy and thermal power. These are intended to contribute to Egypt’s development, and by extension, to widening the foundation for stability across the entire region.
Now allow me please to tell you what I intend to do beginning tomorrow to work towards that goal.
First in Amman, I will confirm our unwavering support to the Government of Jordan, a country that stands at the front line facing the unfolding situation. I intend to express to King Abdullah II my sincere respect for his efforts towards interfaith reconciliation.
In Palestine, I will set out measures that will help enhance the stability of people’s livelihoods, in areas such as healthcare, water supply, and assistance for refugees in the West Bank and Gaza.
We are going to provide assistance for refugees and displaced persons from Iraq and Syria.
We are also going to support Turkey and Lebanon. All that, we shall do to help curb the threat ISIL poses. I will pledge assistance of a total of about 200 million U.S. dollars for those countries contending with ISIL, to help build their human capacities, infrastructure, and so on.
In Iraq, it is absolutely necessary to have a stable government through a Cabinet of national reconciliation, inclusive of all political parties.
Japan will continue to provide assistance to help support such efforts.
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. Khair Al-Umuri Ausatoha, or, there is no better way than going in the middle. I am of the belief that here, Japan has a tremendous role to play.
5. Japan and the Middle East Peace Process
Ladies and gentlemen, the state of the Middle East peace process, or more precisely the difficulty thereof, causes me great pain, as it does to you.
Believing that dialogue that includes neighboring countries is indispensable, and that cooperation and building trust among these countries are also indispensable in advancing the peace process, nine years ago Japan proposed launching a “Corridor for Peace and Prosperity” on the West Bank.
Our ardent wish is that the project nurtures an asset that is vitally important for the peace process, the asset of trust that encompasses all those involved in the region. To make our wish come true, my country is working on the project hand in hand with Israel, Jordan, and Palestine.
The agro-industrial complex that is at the core of the corridor project has now taken shape. I am going to visit the site to see it with my own eyes. In the not so distant future, agricultural products from around Jericho will receive added value there. They will then make their way through the corridor to reach consumer markets in the neighborhood and in the Gulf region.
Over time, the “Corridor for Peace and Prosperity” might well turn into a great destination for tourists. Shall we not work to make Palestine a place bustling with tourism? Japan will gladly serve as a catalyst to make that happen.
Now, for 18 long years since 1997, the Japanese government has been inviting young men and women from both Israel and Palestine to Japan to let them mingle with each other while spending time in the country.
When the participants came to visit me, I conveyed to these young people the words of Prince Shotoku, who lived in the 7th century, that “Harmony is to be cherished.”
I would like these young people in particular to become a young force shouldering the responsibility of peace. That is the aspiration I entrusted to them. This time, during my visit to the region, we will hold a reunion, bringing together the alumni.
Japan believes that the day will come in the near future when we can recognize Palestine as a state.
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.
Please also call to mind the framework known as the Conference on Cooperation among East Asian Countries for Palestinian Development, or “CEAPAD.”
Japan, which revived from the devastation of war, and the countries of Southeast Asia, which have achieved rapid economic progress in only a single generation, have an abundance of experience and wisdom to be harnessed in assisting Palestine.
This framework began under the auspices of Japan and aims to help build collective knowledge to be used for Palestine.
Japan has been a country engaged in enduring cooperation over the long term in order to cultivate trust, which is indispensable for peace in the Middle East.
I would like to add that Japan stands ready to undertake with great willingness whatever role is appropriate for us to carry out.
6. Coexistence, co-prosperity, collaboration, and moderation
The Middle East... that's the region endowed with great possibilities.
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.
So much so, that I should like to say once again, before closing, that the best way is to go in the middle: Khair Al-Umuri Ausatoha.
I pay the greatest tribute to your efforts to stride towards stabilizing people’s livelihoods over all else, by choosing not extremism but gradualism. The world will be truly blessed when the Middle East steadily takes that enormous step, aiming at tolerance rather than hatred, and embracing moderation.
We pledge to continue our efforts to assist in bringing about coexistence and co-prosperity, harmony and tolerance through collaboration and, yes, moderation in the Middle East. To that end we will spare no effort to apply our capabilities and wisdom to the greatest possible extent.
It is for this exact reason that I have stated Japan and Egypt should turn a new page of friendship.
May Japan and Egypt, and Japan and the Middle East, be friends eternally, tahiya ssadaaka.
Thank you very much. Shukran jazilan.