Section 7. Middle East


1. Major Regional Developments


(1) Middle East Peace

(a) While the Palestinians continued their uprising that began in late 1987 in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip against Israeli occupation, the Palestine Liberation Organization adopted a realistic, moderate approach at the Palestine National Council upon Jordan's separation of the West Bank. In December 1988, PLO leader Yasser Arafat specified a moderate stance to recognize Israel's right to exist and abandon terrorism. In response, the United States launched dialogue with the PLO in December 1988. The EC nations have livened their contact with Middle East countries since early 1989 to seek their role in promoting the Middle East peace process. Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze toured the Middle East in February 1989. He was the first Soviet Foreign Minister to do so in 17 years. Hopes for peace have grown in line with these positive diplomatic activities.

(b) Israel's occupation policies have come under international fire, while domestic anti-government criticisms have grown. As the Israeli people were divided over the matter, Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir visited the United States in April 1989, to make peace proposals including elections in the occupied territories. The United States welcomed the election proposal as paving the way to negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians and indicated its readiness to consult with both the Arabs and Israelis. The Arabs have not rejected the election plan which they believe it worth consideration as far as the elections are designed to take place under international surveillance after Israeli troop withdrawal from the Israeli-occupied regions and to lead to a comprehensive Middle East peace.

(c) Japan has been concerned that the peace processes have not made adequate progress despite notable changes since late 1987. Although the Arabs and Israel have still been wide apart over the peace process, Japan hopes that the parties involved would take advantage of these changes to make further efforts for peace . Japan has been interested in the election plans as part of the process toward international conferences for a comprehensive peace solution. Japan is willing to positively contribute to peace efforts through promotion of political talks with both the Arabs and Israel, and through assistance to the Palestinians. Under the fiscal 1989 budget, Japan plans to contribute \246 million to the Japan-Palestine development fund under the United Nations Development Program and \1,230 million to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East. 


Japan's Position on the Question of Peace in the Middle East

1. Peace in the Middle East should be achieved, based upon the United Nations Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338, through the following principles:

 (1) Israeli withdrawal from all the territories occupied since 1967,

 (2) recognition of the right of self-determination of the Palestinian people, including the right to establish an independent state , and

 (3) recognition of Israel's right to exist. Such peace should be realized with due consideration to be given to the legitimate security requirements of the countries in the region.

2. Peace should be attained through negotiations. Japan supports the convening of an international conference as a framework of the negotiations. The PLO represents the Palestinian people, which is a party directly concerned with the Middle East peace problem, and its participation should be secured in the process of the Middle East peace negotiations including an international conference.

3. Japan will cooperate actively with the peace efforts of the parties concerned.


(2) Iran-Iraq Conflict

(a) Peace Negotiations

A cease-fire came into effect between Iran and Iraq on Aug. 20, 1988, after eight years of armed conflict that started in September 1980 as Iran accepted the United Nations Security Council's Resolution 598 calling for an immediate cease-fire. The two countries have continued peace negotiations since Aug. 25, 1988, under the auspices of the United Nations Secretary-General. Their positions, however, have remained wide apart from each other and they have not reached any comprehensive settlement of the conflict yet, despite the efforts by the U.N. Secretary-General and others concerned. Both countries, expressing their willingness to maintain the cease-fire and continue peace negotiations have actually observed the cease-fire agreement. However, minor armed clashes have occurred along their border, and it is expected that the two countries will exercise self-restraint to avoid any adverse effect on the growing expectations of peace and will continue tenacious negotiations.


Middle East Peace Problem

Source: Date on Jews and Arabs are available from the U.S.A. (1987).

Data on refugees are available from UNRWA (1987).

Notes: 1. (x) mainly Palestinians

       2. Suplementary information: Palestinians: 5,139,000 in all 


Iran's leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who was seen as the symbol of the Islamic Revolution, died in June 1989. Close observations are required for the development of Iran's politics and the effects on the peace negotiations with Iraq.

(b) Japan's Position

Japan has fully supported the U.N. Secretary-General's efforts to achieve an early peace between Iran and Iraq. The Japanese Government has made financial contributions and sent a Foreign Ministry political officer to the U.N. Iran-Iraq Military Observer Group which has been monitoring the cease-fire. Japan has channels for dialogue with both Iran and Iraq, and has taken every opportunity to encourage them to achieve an early peace.

Amid the current cease-fire, Iran and Iraq increasingly expect Japan's cooperation in their postwar reconstruction. The Japanese Government is ready to extend as much assistance as possible to these countries taking into consideration developments in their peace negotiations. 


UNSC Resolution 598 (Summary)

(1) Iran and Iraq are demanded to observe an immediate cease-fire and withdraw their forces.

(2) The U.N. Secretary-General is requested to send a U.N. observer team to verify, confirm and supervise the cease-fire and withdrawal, and report to the UNSC on developments.

(3) Iran and Iraq are urged to release and repatriate prisoners of war without delay after the cessation of active hostilities.

(4) Iran and Iraq are called upon to cooperate with the U.N. Secretary-General in mediation efforts.

(5) All other states are called upon to refrain from any act that may lead to further escalation and widening of the conflict.

(6) The U.N. Secretary-General is requested to explore the question of entrusting an impartial body with the inquiry into responsibility for the conflict.

(7) The U.N. Secretary-General is requested to assign a team of experts to study the question of reconstruction.

(8) The U.N. Secretary-General is requested to examine measures to enhance the security and stability of the region.

(9) The U.N. Secretary-General is requested to keep the UNSC informed on the implementation of this resolution.

(10) The UNSC will meet again as necessary to consider further steps to ensure compliance with this resolution.


(Reference) Iran-Iraq Conflict and Boundary Dispute

One of the direct causes of the Iran-Iraq conflict is a boundary dispute. This dispute can be traced back to a border agreement between the Ottoman Turk Empire and Iran in 1639. Since then, border disputes and boundary changes have been repeated as the regional political situation changed.

Before 1975, any border agreement delimited the border line at the Iranian bank of the Shatt-al-Arab River, but the Algiers Agreement delimited the border at the center line of the waterway for the first time. At the juncture of the start of the armed conflict against Iran in September 1980, Iraq abolished the Algiers Agreement for the reason of Iran's non-compliance with the Agreement and claimed its sovereignty over the Shatt-al-Arab River. Iran and Iraq have differed over dredging of the river at their peace negotiations. Attention is required on how the boundary problem will be treated in achieving a comprehensive settlement of the conflict.


Map of Iran-Iraq Conflict


(3) Afghanistan

(a) Afghan Situation After Withdrawal of Soviet Troops

The withdrawal of the Soviet troops from Afghanistan was completed by Feb. 15, 1989, in compliance with the Geneva Agreement between Afghanistan under President Najibullah, Pakistan, the United States and the Soviet Union on April 14, 1988.

The Soviet-backed Najibullah Government, however, has continued armed clashes with resistance forces backed by the United States, Pakistan and others.

Between early February and early March 1989, an alliance of seven pro-Pakistan Sunni resistance groups declared the establishment of the Afghan Interim Government (AIG) led by Sebghatullah Mojadeddi as president. The AIG has yet to have any effective control of territory and has not acquired wide-ranging international recognition. As of July 1989, it had been recognized by Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Malaysia and Sudan. The United States and Pakistan have pledged political support to the AIG without giving recognition.

The Soviet Union has criticized that the AIG would further deteriorate internal confrontation in Afghanistan, and has been steadfast backing the Najibullah Government.

The Najibullah Government proposed "National Reconciliation" before the Soviet troop withdrawal and has tried to reach a compromise with resistance forces and absorb them into its regime. The resistance forces, however, have consistently rejected any compromise with Najibullah. In June, Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto insisted the need for political settlement of the Afghan problem and urged Najibullah to resign as the precondition, but the request has not been accepted. Parties concerned are thus wide apart over the political settlement. If the Afghan situation remains uncertain in future, however, they will step up bargaining for a political settlement. Their future movements will be worthy of attention.

(b) Japan's Position

The Soviet troop withdrawal from Afghanistan under the Geneva Agreement can be appreciated as contributing to the construction of more stabilized East-West relations and also to peace and stability in the region. In order to ensure real stability in Afghanistan, a broad-based government needs to be established by the Afghan people themselves.

Japan has extended financial support and sent a Foreign Ministry political officer to the U.N. Good Offices Mission in Afghanistan and Pakistan to back up the United Nations' mediation efforts and the implementation of the Geneva Agreement. In response to the U.N. Secretary-General's appeal for aid to Afghan refugees in June 1988, Japan offered a contribution of $60 million in September 1988. In addition, Japan contributed $105 million to the Office of Sadruddin Aga Khan, Coordinator for U.N. Humanitarian and Economic Assistance Programmes Relating to Afghanistan, under a supplementary budget for fiscal 1988. Japan is ready to consider provision of assistance for reconstruction in Afghanistan if a broad-based government which truly represents the Afghan people is established there.



(4) Lebanon

A presidential election which had been scheduled for September 1988, failed to materialize due to unsuccessful coordination of views among religious sects. in the absence of the president, two governments came into being aggravating the situation in Lebanon. Artillery duels continuing between the eastern and western parts of Beirut. One government is led by Prime Minister Gen. Michel Aoun of the Christian Maronite Rite and another by Prime Minister Selim Al-Hoss of the Islamic Sunni sect.

In the face of the worsening turmoil, Maronite Rite Patriarch Nasrallah Sufayr and the Arab League's six-man committee tried to mediate between the religious groups. The six-man committee was replaced by a three-man committee including Moroccan King Moulay Hassan II in accordance with a decision at an extraordinary Arab League summit in late May 1989. The three-man committee's mediation efforts to bring out political reforms and a presidential election ran aground in late July, before the expiration of the committee's six-month term.


(5) Western Sahara Issue

Morocco and the Polisario Front have been dispute over the territorial right to Western Sahara since Spain's withdrawal from there in 1976. But moves for peace have grown apace since the U.N. Secretary-General presented a peace proposal in August 1988. The proposal, the contents of which have not been made public, is believed to prioritize two points: a cease-fire under U.N. surveillance and a residents' referendum. In October 1988, the U.N. Secretary-General appointed Hector Gros of Uruguay as his special representative in charge of the Western Sahara issue.


(6) Moves for Integration of Arab Region

(a) Establishment of AMU and ACC

New moves for cooperation in the Arab region have emerged since the establishment of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) in 1981. The first Maghreb summit took place in June 1988, followed by the second summit in February 1989 where the five Maghreb countries - Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco and Mauritania - signed a treaty to create the Arab Maghreb Union.

Jordan, Iraq, Egypt and North Yemen also established the Arab Cooperation Council in February 1989, to enhance their complementary economic relations.

(b) Extraordinary Arab Summit

The 20 Arab states and PLO, which are Arab League members, excluding Lebanon, held an extraordinary Arab summit in Casablanca May 23-26, 1989, to deal with the Lebanon problem as well as the Middle East peace issue. Egypt whose Arab League membership was suspended in March 1979, when it concluded a peace treaty with Israel was invited to attend the summit and rejoined the league after a 10-year absence.


2. Situation in Major Middle East Countries


(1) General Election in Israel

Middle East peace posed a major issue in the general election of November 1988. Both of the major parties - Labor and Likud - suffered a setback in the election while religious parties increased their parliamentary seats gaining an opportunity to take part in a coalition government. But these religious parties set too ambitious a set of conditions for their participation in the coalition coming under fire both at home and abroad. Shamir, designated as prime minister, eventually chose to organize a coalition with the Labor Party again.


(2) General Election in Tunisia

Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, who replaced Habib Bourguiba as president in November 1987, carried out Tunisia's first ever presidential and parliamentary elections in April 1989. He won overwhelming support, collecting as much as 99% of the votes. His ruling Constitutional Democracy Alliance occupied all the parliamentary seats.


(3) Algeria's Domestic Problem.

Algeria's economy deteriorated with price increases and growing unemployment due partly to the weakened oil market. Resentment with the government rose among the people, predominantly the younger generation, touching off large-scale riots in Algiers and other cities in October 1988. The government imposed martial law for armed crackdown on rioters, and President Chadli Bendjedid announced economic and political reforms including promotion of economic liberalization and constitutional modifications.


(4) Iran

Iran's domestic politics and diplomacy have been shaken over one year since a cease-fire between Iran and Iraq came into effect in August 1988.

Economic reconstruction has become the focus of domestic politics after the cease-fire. Introduction of foreign funds for revitalizing the domestic economy has been under consideration, but specific economic reconstruction plans are yet to be put into practice.

Although the administration has been led by both the President and the Prime Minister since the Islamic Revolution, the people have been increasingly aware that the Constitution should be revised to enhance the presidential power for smoother administrative management. Amid progress in preparations for new nation building, Ayatollah Khomeini died in June 1989. President Ali Khamenei immediately became the leader to ensure political stability. A presidential election was conducted in July and Speaker of the Islamic Consultative Assembly Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani won the presidency as earlier expected.

Although no change was seen in Iran's relations with the United States, Iran tried to promote ties with Western Europe through West German Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher's visit to Iran in November 1988, and Iranian Prime Minister Mir Hossein Mussavi's trip to Italy in January 1989. However, tension emerged between Iran and Western Europe as Ayatollah Khomeini criticized the novel, "The Satanic Verses, " as blaspheming the Moslems and he ordered Moslems to execute the British author and the publisher of the novel in February 1989. The United Kingdom severed diplomatic relations with Iran.

Iran, on the other hand, has strengthened relations with the Soviet Union. In January 1989, Ayatollah Khomeini sent to the Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev a letter expressing his willingness to promote ties with the Soviet Union. In June 1989, Speaker Rafsanjani visited the Soviet Union and reached agreement with the Soviet leaders on enhanced cooperation between the two countries in a wide range of areas from economy to science and technology, and defense.


(5) Coup in Sudan

The military, dissatisfied with a delay in negotiations for termination of a civil war in southern Sudan, carried out a bloodless coup in June 1989, to replace the Al Sadiq Al-Mahdi Government, established in April, with a new military regime including Lt. Gen. Omer Hassan Ahmed Al-Bashir as prime minister.


3. Relations With Japan


(1) Summary

Japan has positively promoted friendship and cooperation with Middle Eastern countries in view of these countries' significance to international politics and the world economy as well as their interdependent relations. A Japan-Qatar joint committee meeting took place in April. Similar meetings were held with Tunisia in March 1989, and with Egypt in April. Exchange of visits by Japanese and Middle Eastern leaders has been active in the past year. Among Middle Eastern government-level leaders who visited Japan was PLO head of Political Department Farouk Kaddoumi. Parliamentarians' exchange visits were made with Turkey, Sudan, Libya, Algeria and Egypt.


(2) Economic and Technical Cooperation

Japan sent an emergency assistance team and financial aid to Sudan which was hit by disasterous floods in August 1988. Japan also provided Sudan with funds to finance transportation services for refugees.

The Education and Culture Center was opened in Cairo in October 1988, under a three-year program backed by Japan's grant aid. Events to celebrate the opening of the center included the first ever Kabuki performance in the Middle East and Africa.


(3) Trade Relations

Japan's exports to the Middle East in 1988 rose 2% from the previous year to $10 billion and imports from the region declined 2% to $20.3 billion, resulting in an import excess of $10.3 billion, down 5%.

Japan still heavily depends on the Gulf countries for its energy supply. Of Japan's total crude oil imports worth $18.4 billion in 1988, 67.2% came from the Middle East including the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.


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