Diplomatic Bluebook 2015
Japan’s Foreign Policy that Takes a Panoramic Perspective of the World Map
6.Countries in the Middle East and North Africa
(1) Jordan and Lebanon
In 2014, Japan and Jordan celebrated the 60th anniversary of the establishment of their diplomatic relations. In November, His Majesty King Abdullah II Ibn Al Hussein, King of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, paid a working visit to Japan. Active exchanges of high-level officials between the two countries were also made. Therefore the historically friendly ties between two countries further deepened this year. In particular, a summit meeting was held with Prime Minister Abe during the visit of King Abdullah II and a first-ever joint statement between the two countries was issued reaffirming the strengthening of two countries’ ties and mutual cooperation for the peace and stability of the Middle East region. The situation in Jordan is stable in the constantly turbulent Middle East region. Jordan has played an important role toward the peace and stability of the region, such as its acceptance of a number of Syrian refugees, its efforts in the contending with ISIL, and active involvement in the Middle East peace process. The country’s role is highly appreciated by the international community. Japan also greatly appreciated Jordan’s efforts and continuously provides support to Jordan to maintain its stability and to develop industrial infrastructure. In 2014, Japan provided Jordan with an ODA loan assistance of “Fiscal Consolidation Development Policy Loan” (in an amount of 12 billion yen) and a grant aid for general culture of “Improvement of the Petra Museum Project” (686.2 million yen). In January 2015, Prime Minister Abe visited Jordan, and during the summit meeting with King Abdullah II, he expressed his intention to provide new financial assistance, including the above-mentioned loan of 12 billion yen, and reaffirmed that Japan and Jordan would further develop their strategic relationship and continue their cooperation to promote the peace and stability of the Middle East region.
Lebanon is a culturally diverse country consisting of 18 religions and religious sects, including Christians and Muslims. One year since Prime Minister Najib Mikati resigned in March 2013, a new government led by Mr. Tammam Salam was formed in February 2014. However, no successor of President Michel Suleiman, whose term of office ended in May 2014, has been elected yet (as of January 2015), and there is no clear date when the parliamentary elections, postponed since June 2013, will be held. Lebanon faces a serious threat to its foundations, such as the deteriorated situation in neighbouring Syria and expansion of ISIL, which pose serious threats to the Middle East region as well. Stability in Lebanon is the key to the stability and prosperity of the Middle East region. Japan provides Lebanon with humanitarian aid of 74.7 million US dollars for assistance to Syrian refugees.
Turkey is a large and geopolitically important country located at the crossroads to Europe, the Middle East, Central Asia, and Caucasia. Its presence in the international community has also increased. The country assumes the chairmanship of G20 in December 2014. Japan and Turkey have a long-term friendly relationship symbolized by several episodes, such as the Ertugrul Frigate Disaster in 1890 and the rescue of Japanese nationals by a Turkish Airlines plane during the Iran-Iraq War in 1985. The two countries have recently further developed their cooperative relationship especially in the economic sector based on the firm trustworthy relationship at the leaders.
Marking the 90th anniversary of diplomatic relations in 2014, Japan and Turkey deepened their cooperation in a variety of areas based on the “Joint Declaration of the Establishment of Strategic Partnership Between Japan and the Republic of Turkey” signed on the occasion of the summit meeting in May 2013, when Prime Minister Abe visited Turkey. In January 2014, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan paid an official visit to Japan for the first time in ten years. A summit meeting between the two countries’ prime ministers was held, which was the third summit meeting since 2013. Active exchanges of visits by high-level officials were also made, such as Minister of Foreign Affairs Ahmet Davutoğlu’s visiting Hiroshima in April to attend the NPDI Ministerial Meeting, where he met Foreign Minister Kishida, and Her Imperial Highness Princess Akiko’s visit to Turkey in April. In December, the “Coordinating Committee of Public and Private Sectors for Promotion of Japan-Turkey Economic and Cultural Exchanges” administered by MOFA was established to promote the two countries’ economic and cultural cooperation coordinating public and private sectors’ activities.
In order to commemorate the 125th anniversary of the Ertugrul Frigate Disaster in 2015, Japan and Turkey aim to further strengthen their bilateral relations.
Located at the north-eastern edge of the African continent and facing Europe on the other side of the Mediterranean, Egypt is a large country which plays an important role for the stability of the Middle East and North Africa.
In January 2014, Egypt held a national referendum on an amendment to the constitution, which was supported by 98.1% of voters. Voting in presidential elections was organized between May 26 and 28, resulting in the victory of former Defence Minister Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who was sworn in as the President on June 8. Parliamentary election is scheduled to take place, which will complete the political process in Egypt.
With respect to the relationship with Japan, State Minister for Foreign Affairs Nobuo Kishi visited Egypt in July and paid a courtesy call to President el-Sisi as well as held discussions with Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry. In September, a summit meeting was held between Prime Minister Abe and President el-Sisi when they visited New York to attend the UN General Assembly. In January 2015, Prime Minister Abe visited Egypt where he had meetings with President el-Sisi and Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab. They issued a comprehensive joint-statement of a nature to renew their commitment towards further strengthening the bilateral relations. At the Joint Meeting of the Japan-Egypt Business Committee, Prime Minister Abe made a speech on Japan’s policy on the Middle East titled “The Best Way Is to Go in the Middle:Towards a stable Middle East Imbued with Vitality —Japan and Egypt Turning a New Page,” in which he mentioned new financial assistance of 2.5 billion US dollars for the whole Middle Eastern region and expressed Japan’s continued contribution to the stability of the region. In addition, the meeting between President el-Sisi and the Japanese economic mission together with other contacts provided the two countries with opportunities to expand their economic ties, such as participation of Japanese companies in some of the Egyptian national projects including the project on Suez Canal and the projects in the electricity and energy sector.
(4) Libya, Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco
The Maghreb is located at the crossroads to Europe, Africa and the Middle East, which have shared aspects in history, culture and language. Recently it has increasingly attracted attention as a region for economic investment. In March, State Minister for Foreign Affairs Nobuo Kishi visited Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia.
After the “Arab Spring,” an uprising in the Middle East and North Africa, long-standing regimes in Tunisia and Libya collapsed. The countries face a serious challenge of establishing democracy. Tunisia adopted the new constitution in January, and organised parliamentary elections in October. Consistently supporting the democratization of that country, Japan sent an election monitoring team led by Parliamentary Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs Kazuyuki Nakane. It was followed by the presidential elections in November and December. A new government is expected to be formed after these elections. This will complete the country’s democratization process. Libya has fallen into a situation of serious conflict among several groups rooted in tribes and has experienced security deterioration. In June, elections were held for the Council of Representatives, but the General National Congress has not officially transferred its authority to the Council of Representatives yet. The UN agencies and neighbouring countries have continued to intervene to normalize the situation. The Embassy of Japan in Libya is temporarily closed since July due to the seriously deteriorating condition of public safety.
Algeria and Morocco have successfully maintained the stable administration of the government. In Algeria, incumbent President Abdelaziz Bouteflika won the election in April and took office for his fourth term. In its 16th year, the Bouteflika administration has initiated various reforms, including an amendment to the constitution, and has strengthened security and antiterrorism measures following deterioration of situation in neighbouring countries. In Morocco, many foreign companies have entered the market because of its qualitative infrastructure and geopolitical advantages. Many Japanese companies have also entered the market, and a JETRO office opened there in 2015.
(5) Gulf countries (including Yemen)
A. Six Gulf countries (the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Oman, Qatar, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Bahrain)
The Gulf countries have successfully maintained a strong economy. They are important for Japan not only from the viewpoint of energy security but also as the potential market for the exporting of infrastructure and medical systems. Prime Minister Abe visited all these Gulf countries between the period of 2013 and January 2014, confirming that Japan would build multi-layered relationship that expands beyond energy area (“Comprehensive Partnership”). From the Gulf countries, His Royal Highness Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, then the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia and His Highness General Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, paid official visits to Japan in February 2014. There were many other prominent individuals that visited Japan.
In 2014, the Gulf countries were also affected by the intensifying activities of ISIL activities to a certain degree. The issue of younger population from the Gulf countries joining ISIL as foreign fighters rose to the surface. Also, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar and Bahrain joined the US-led airstrikes against ISIL.
Since June 2014, unstable security situation in Yemen has continued due to the intensification of the domestic conflict. However, in September a peace agreement was signed by political forces, and a new government was formed in November.
In January, Parliamentary Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs Takao Makino visited Yemen and met Prime Minister Mohammed Salem Basindwa and Minister of Foreign Affairs Abu Bakr al-Qirbi to convey that Japan supports the Yemeni government in its efforts to build a new state. At the “Friends of Yemen Ministerial Meeting” in April, Japan announced new financial assistance of 30 million US dollars (1 million US dollars to support political transition and 29 million US dollars for humanitarian aid). In the same meeting held in September, Japan announced additional 1 million US dollars assistance to support political transition. Through these means, Japan has continued its support for Yemen’s stability.
The Saudi Japanese Automobile High Institute (SJAHI) initiative was launched in 2001 through cooperation between the public and private sectors, based on the Memorandum of Understanding on the Establishment of Schools to Improve Vehicle Maintenance Skills. This MOU was concluded between Japan and Saudi Arabia during the visit to Japan by Prince Abdullah (now King of Saudi Arabia) in 1998.
Although the form of support provided by Japan has undergone various transitions, it has contributed to producing 2,238 graduates as of this year, the 13th year since the founding of the Institute, and continues to play an active role in deploying these graduates to the service centers of dealers of Japanese automobile manufacturers in Saudi Arabia. Among these, there are even graduates who have been promoted to the position of service manager.
This initiative is making a significant contribution to Saudi Arabia’s efforts to promote its policies of protecting the interests of its own citizens, and further, has been highly appraised as a symbolic project that promotes friendly relations between the two countries.
SJAHI is a two-year technical school specializing in the area of vehicle maintenance. It takes in Saudi Arabian high school graduates. The school has a student quota of 500 people, and has a teaching team comprising 80 staff members. It boasts a full range of functions, with facilities that include general classrooms, technical classrooms, a practical training building, computer rooms, science laboratories, a student dormitory for 300 students, as well as a mosque.
The curriculum begins with intensive English education, followed by classroom lectures and practical training in vehicle maintenance, all of which are conducted in English. This is further supplemented by training programs in companies. The goal is to arm students with skills that are on par with the level at grade 3 of the automobile technician certification in Japan.
An outstanding second year student of SJAHI commented, “Before I enrolled in the school, I thought that it was a means of gaining employment in the same way that typical schools are. However, after I began studying here, I found it to be an invaluable experience. Not only did I master the technical education and training program, I also learnt the basics of self-development, concepts about time and how to apply them, the true significance of achieving goals and how to do so, the importance of creative thinking, how to harness my personality, and taking pride in my work.”
SJAHI is even more highly appraised than other technical colleges in Saudi Arabia. In fact, the Japan Automobile Distributors in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (JADIK), where graduates are employed, requests every year for the acceptance of students over the maximum quota. In the future, SJAHI is expected to further strengthen its collaboration with JADIK and achieve even greater growth.
Senior Expert, SJAHI