6.The Middle East and North Africa
The Middle East and North Africa (hereinafter referred to as the Middle East region) occupies a geopolitically important location, linking Europe, sub-Saharan Africa, Central Asia, and South Asia, and has important shipping lanes for international commerce, and furthermore supplies large quantities of oil and natural gas. Thus, the peace and stability of this region is vital to the peace and stability of the entire international community, including Japan. In 2011, this region saw massive upheaval not seen for decades, referred to as the “Arab Spring”. Long-lived regimes were overturned in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, on the one hand, and Yemen on the other, which is on the process of regime transition. While processes of political reforms such as elections and formation of new cabinets are advancing in these countries, it is time that economic and social reforms are entering critical stages. While such transitions and reforms are taking place in some nations, suppression of the public and disorder continues in Syria despite repeated calls to stop them by the international community including Japan. Although the Arab League sent observation teams to locations across Syria at the end of the year 2011, there remains little prospect for improvement in the situation.
The Middle East region also continues to face diverse issues including the Iranian nuclear issue, stability and reconstruction of Iraq and Afghanistan, the Middle East peace process, and terrorism. Resolving these issues is extremely important not only for the peace and stability of the region itself but also for those of the entire international community, including Japan that imports approximately 90% of its crude oil from this region.
Under these circumstances, Japan is actively working in coordination with the international community toward peace and stability in the Middle East region, including through participation in the Deauville Partnership launched by the G8. Japan is providing a variety of assistance including support for the establishment of fair political and administrative management, human resources development, and promotion of employment and industrial development for countries in transition to democracy in order to back the efforts of each country. Japan is also working to achieve peace in the Middle East and the peaceful and diplomatic resolution of the Iranian nuclear issue on the basis of its unique relationship with the region, in close coordination with the countries concerned, by conducting political dialogues and dispatching special envoys. Japan is also providing assistance centered on economic cooperation that contributes to regional peace and stability, including aid for the reconstruction of Afghanistan and Iraq as well as for the establishment of a Palestinian state.
A sharp increase in the youth population of the Middle East region in recent years is a source of dynamism generating economic development. Countries of the Middle East region have been achieving steady economic development in recent years by incorporating this dynamism. Also, they are transforming their countries into attractive markets and investment destinations for foreign countries by advancing industrial diversification. Japan views such economic development in the Middle East region as a good opportunity for further developing economic and business relations and emphasizes the advancement of economic diplomacy through efforts including holding the Japan-Arab Economic Forum. Japan also believes that strengthening of economic relations in such a manner contributes to the stability and advancement of the political and economic situations in each country. Japan is further strengthening its relations with countries that export natural resources including oil and natural gas in order to secure stable supplies of natural resources and energy. Japan is also arranging legal frameworks such as free trade agreements (FTAs), investment treaties, and tax treaties as a foundation for strengthening economic relations, as well as promoting efforts such as the development of Japanese infrastructure overseas.
Furthermore, in recent years Japan has been striving to deepen mutual understanding by building up multi-layered relations across wide-ranging fields, including renewable energy, politics, science and technology, education and culture, and the environment, in addition to traditional efforts to reinforcement of cooperation in the fields of oil, natural gas, and economy. Among the various frameworks for dialogue, the Broader Middle East and North Africa (BMENA) Initiative “Forum for the Future” ministerial meeting is an important venue for dialogue and cooperation with G8 countries on the political, economic, and social development of the Middle East region, and Japan will continue to actively participate in this forum.