Diplomatic Bluebook 2014 Summary
Japan’s Foreign Policy that Takes a PanoramicPerspective of the World Map
6. The Middle East and North Africa
The Middle East and North African region (hereafter referred to as the “Middle East region”) is situated in a geopolitically important location at the intersection of Europe, Sub-Saharan Africa, Central Asia and South Asia. This region contains a major international maritime route for international commerce, and is also an important supplier of energy resources, including oil and natural gas, to the rest of the world. On the other hand, this area is facing a number of challenges that destabilize the region, such as the situation in Syria, the Iranian nuclear issue, the Middle East Peace Process, and security and reconstruction in Iraq and Afghanistan. Addressing these challenges is of great importance not only for the peace and stability of the region, but also for Japan, which imports more than 80% of its crude oil from the region, and also for the international community as a whole.
For Japan, it is important to turn its relationship with the Middle East, which has conventionally been centered on resources and energy, into a more multi-layered relationship that encompasses wide-ranging economic cooperation, politics and security, as well as culture and people-to-people exchanges. With this objective in mind, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced on the occasion of his visit to Saudi Arabia in May 2013 that Japan would fundamentally strengthen the relationship between Japan and the Middle East through building a “Comprehensive Partnership toward Stability and Prosperity.”
With regard to the situation in Syria, a matter of longstanding concern to the international community, Japan joined together with the rest of the world to call upon the parties involved to cease all violence. In addition, Prime Minister Abe announced in a speech to the United Nations General Assembly in September that Japan would spend an additional US$60 million in humanitarian aid for refugees and internally displaced persons. As for the Middle East Peace Process, Minister for Foreign Affairs Fumio Kishida traveled to Israel, Palestine and Jordan in July and met with the leaders of each country/region to encourage them to achieve peace, and a ministerial meeting attended by the four foreign ministers was held to advance Japan’s initiative of “Corridor for Peace and Prosperity.” In November, significant progress was made with regard to the Iranian nuclear issue through the agreement reached at the EU3+3(8) meetings. Pursuing the matter from a Japanese standpoint, the Prime Minister’s Special Envoy, Mr. Masahiko Koumura, and Foreign Minister Kishida visited Iran and called upon Iran to be flexible in its approach to the negotiations about its nuclear issue.
More recently, the Middle East region has been achieving stable economic development that is attributed to the rapidly growing young population, and is increasing its international appeal as a consumer market and an investment destination. Therefore, Japan has been developing legal frameworks such as EPAs, FTAs, investment agreements and tax treaties which will become the foundation for strengthening its economic and business relationships with the countries in the region, and has been promoting infrastructure projects in the region. Prime Minister Abe paid three visits to countries in the Middle East during 2013—in May, August and October—and during each of these visits he was accompanied by an economic delegation representing Japan’s business community. This economic delegation was able to make appeals to the high-ranking officials in these countries regarding Japan’s strengths in a wide range of fields including energy, infrastructure development, health and medicine, and cutting-edge technologies.