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Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s interview with Oman Daily Observer

January 9th, 2014

January 9, 2014

Q: The Current situation of the Japan- Oman Relationship

A. I am glad to be able to visit the Sultanate of Oman as this is the first visit of a Japanese prime minister here in almost quarter of a century. I have been looking forward to this visit because I attach great importance to Oman as the honorary president of the Oman-Japan Friendship Association, which I have worked on since its founding.

Oman is an important partner for Japan. Japan relies on Oman for supplying oil and LNG, which are indispensable for Japan’s sustainable economic growth. Moreover, Oman is a strategically important country for international maritime transportation, and it is vital for Japan to cooperate with the Sultanate in maintaining the safety of shipping routes, including the Strait of Hormuz, for the energy security of Japan.

In addition to this, Oman is taking initiatives, under the prominent leadership of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said, toward addressing concerns in the Middle East that the international community has. It is beneficial for the diplomacy of our country, which proactively contributes to peace in the Middle East, to deepen our cooperation with Oman. Taking the opportunity this visit, I will endeavor to enhance cooperation in the political and security fields.

There are currently 13 Japanese companies in Oman, and I hope that more and more Japanese enterprises will invest in infrastructure projects, including water and power production projects as well as the tourism industry. Moreover, I believe that it is important to transfer Japanese technology and expertise to Omani people through human resource development assistance in various areas, including the environment, health and hygiene, energy conservation and renewable energy, and I hope these contribute to the development of the domestic industries of Oman. I would like to diversify and enhance economic cooperation between the two countries in multiple fields.

Developments in people-to-people exchange lay the foundation of the friendly relationship between Japan and Oman. Currently, more than 50 Omani students are studying in Japan. In addition, one of the Japanese universities has a Sultan Qaboos Chair course, which contributes to the development of research on the Middle East region in Japan.

I hope to bolster Japan’s comprehensive partnership with the Sultanate in multiple areas, including political, security, economic and people-to-people exchange, through these programs.

Q: Japanese vision for the Middle East region

A. In the Middle East, there are many issues to be addressed by the countries in the region and the wider international community, such as the Middle East peace process, the situation in Syria, the Iranian nuclear issue, and the dynamic political change the region has been facing following what is known as the “Arab Spring”. Peace and stability in the Middle East region is directly linked to the stability of the international community, and the security of Japan itself. Therefore, my country, as a proactive contributor to peace, will more actively contribute to the peace and stability of the Middle East, based on the principle of international cooperation.

The GCC countries, including Oman, are the largest suppliers of oil to Japan, but in addition to that, the GCC plays a critical role in the peace and stability of the Middle East as a stable force in a region which is undergoing transition and at a historic crossroads.

Regarding cooperation in the political and security arenas in particular, Japan will play a more political role in the stability of the Middle East with the motto of “collaboration” or “al-ta'āun”.

Concerning economic cooperation, I would like to seek a deeper, more multifaceted economic relationship between Japan and Oman, to evolve from the current resource-centric exchange, and I aim to enhance the “coexistence and co-prosperity” (“al-ta'āish”) of Japan and the Middle East. I hope that the GCC countries will utilize the world-class technology and expertise of Japan in various fields to develop their domestic industries.

Islamic societies and Japan share the common values of respect, “harmony and tolerance” (al-tasāmuh). I wish to emphasize these common values and hope that their enhancement of people-to-people and cultural exchange between Japan and the GCC would serve to deepen our interest and understanding of one another’s cultures and societies.

To date, Japan and Middle Eastern countries have established a very close relationship in spite of our geographical distance. The Japanese fundamental outlook maintains that the Middle East region will always remain a sincere running mate for our nation. I would like to foster a relationship of multifaceted synergy with the Middle East region and I am eager to collaborate in the quest to achieve region-wide peace, stability and growth.