The Middle East and North Africa
Peace and stability in the Middle East region are issues directly affecting the peace and prosperity of the international community as a whole. Ensuring the stability of this region is also extremely vital for the energy security of Japan, which imports approximately 90% of its crude oil from the region.
While the Middle East region saw positive developments in 2008, including economic growth in the Gulf states against the backdrop of rich petroleum resources and improvements in the security situation in Iraq, challenges still remain, such as the deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan and Iran's nuclear issue. In addition, Israel's military attacks on the Gaza Strip that began on December 27 once again indicated the instability of the situation in the region. Furthermore, the dramatic rise and fall in the prices of crude oil and the global financial crisis have also brought significant impacts to the regional economy.
Against this backdrop, Japan is proactively engaged in Middle East diplomacy in cooperation with the international community, pursuing the two main goals of working to ensure stability in the Middle East and ensuring Japan's energy security.
Japan has also been further developing its relations with the countries of the Middle East on the axis of the economic front, centered on energy. Japan is now promoting efforts to build multi-layered relations in a broad range of fields such as politics, culture, and science and technology.
In May, Foreign Minister Koumura visited Afghanistan and announced that Japan, as the chair of the G8, would support coordination and cooperation between the international community and the government of Afghanistan with regard to assistance to Afghanistan.
In July, Japan proactively engaged itself in efforts for the Middle East peace process, hosting the third Ministerial-Level Meeting of the Four-Party Consultative Unit for the Initiative of the "Corridor for Peace and Prosperity" in Tokyo, in addition to other efforts.
In October, Japan and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) served as co-chairs of the Broader Middle East and North Africa (BMENA) "Forum for the Future" Ministerial Meeting held in the UAE. Foreign Minister Nakasone and State Secretary for Foreign Affairs Seiko Hashimoto led discussions on assistance for reform in the Middle East and North Africa region and responses to the international financial crisis.
State Secretary for Foreign Affairs Hashimoto and Special Envoy of the Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited Iraq in December 2008 and January 2009 respectively, holding consultations to further develop the long-term friendly relationship between the Government of Japan and the Government of the Republic of Iraq over a broad range of fields, after the Japan Self-Defense Forces completed their five-year mission in Iraq. The Declaration on Establishing a Comprehensive Partnership between Japan and Iraq was announced during the visit of Special Envoy Abe.