Diplomatic Bluebook 2015
Japan’s Foreign Policy that Takes a Panoramic Perspective of the World Map
Section 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 expansion of extremist groups including Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), the situation in Iraq, the situation in Syria, the Iranian nuclear issue, the Middle East Peace Process, and the situations in Afghanistan, Yemen, and Libya. Realizing peace and stability in this region that confronts these challenges is of great importance for the international community as a whole, including Japan.
As Japan relies on this region for more than 80% of its crude oil imports, Japan has developed relations with the Middle East region that have been centered on resources and energy. In recent years, Japan has been aiming to build a more multi-layered relationship that encompasses resources and energy, as well as wide-ranging economic cooperation, politics and security, and culture and people-to-people exchanges. Since the inauguration of the second Abe administration in December 2012 through January 2015, Prime Minister Abe visited this region five times. Under the concept of “Comprehensive Partnership towards Stability and Prosperity”, the Government of Japan has put efforts into a range of diplomatic initiatives to fundamentally strengthen the relations between Japan and the Middle East region.
With regard to the issue of ISIL, which poses a serious threat to the international community as a whole, Japan has condemned terrorism and expressed support for the counter-terrorism efforts of the international community in various opportunities, including summit meetings, foreign ministers’ meetings, Prime Minister Abe’s address to the UN General Assembly session in September 2014, and Prime Minister Abe’s speech on Japan’s Middle East policy in January 2015. During Prime Minister Abe’s visit to the Middle East in January 2015, the Prime Minister pledged assistance of a total of about 200 million US dollars, as assistance for refugees and displaced persons and humanitarian assistance for countries in the region in order to counter ISIL.
In response to the situation in Syria, Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida announced on numerous occasions, including at the Geneva II Conference on Syria in January 2014 and the Ministerial Meeting on Syria in September, that Japan would continue to provide both humanitarian assistance and contribute to the political dialogue. Japan has extended over 400 million US dollars of humanitarian assistance to Syria and its neighboring countries until the end of 2014.
In relation to the Middle East Peace Process, Japan urged Israeli and Palestinian leaders to resume peace talks on many occasions, including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to Japan in May 2014, and Prime Minister Abe’s visits to Israel and Palestine in January 2015. Furthermore, Japan has made steady progress on its unique efforts to support Palestine, including the “Corridor for Peace and Prosperity” initiative and the Conference on the Cooperation among East Asian countries for Palestinian Development (CEAPAD). With respect to the Iranian nuclear issue on which negotiations have continued based on the interim agreement reached between Iran and the EU3＋3 in November 2013, Japan has taken such opportunities as the Japan-Iran summit meeting (September 2014) and visit to Japan by Minister of Foreign Affairs Mohammad Javad Zarif of Iran (March 2014) to consistently call upon Iran to take flexible approach to the negotiations, pursuing the matter from a unique standpoint of Japan.
In recent years, many countries in the Middle East region have achieved steady economic development with the rapidly growing youth population serving as its driving force, and is increasing its presence as a consumer market and an investment destination. Therefore, Japan has been working on legal frameworks, such as Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs), Free Trade Agreements (FTAs), investment agreements, tax agreements, and social security agreements, which will become the foundation for strengthening its economic and business relationships with the Middle East region. Additionally, Japan has been promoting infrastructure projects in the region. When Prime Minister Abe visited the Middle East region, he was accompanied by an economic delegation comprised of companies from various industries and business categories, from large to medium and small enterprises. This delegation actively pitched Japan’s strengths to the leaders of each country and the business community.