Diplomatic Bluebook 2017

Chapter 2

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 Africa region is situated in a geopolitically important location as the intersection of Europe, Sub-Saharan Africa, Central Asia, and South Asia. This region contains major international maritime routes 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 violent extremists including Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), the mass refugees that are flowing into nearby regions, the worsening situation in Syria and Iraq, the tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia, the issue of Middle East Peace, and the conditions in Afghanistan, Yemen, and Libya. Achieving peace and stability in this region is greatly important for the international community as a whole, including Japan. The global community is working on solutions to these issues. Japan has been working with the global community to be effective in areas such as humanitarian aid, stabilization assistance, and mid-and long-term development support while playing a constructive role in relation to each country in the region to achieve regional stability.

Japan relies on the Middle East for more than 80% of its crude oil imports and has developed ties with the Middle East and North Africa region countries (hereafter referred to as the “Middle East countries”) that have previously been centered on resources and energy. This is no longer the extent of such relations as Japan builds a more multi-layered relationship including 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 administration in December 2012, Prime Minister Abe visited this region six times, and there have been a number of high-level visits, meetings, and talks. The Government of Japan has made efforts to strengthen ties with the region under the concept of the “never-failing running mate of Middle East countries1.”

The expansion of violent extremism including ISIL has been not only significantly undermining the order in the Middle East and North Africa region but also raising a great concern to the entire global society. On various occasions such as the May 2016 G7 Ise-Shima Summit, Japan has expressed its intention to support the construction of inclusive societies that do not generate violent extremism. With the spirit of “the best way is in the middle,” the Government of Japan has provided humanitarian assistance for the refugees and internally displaced persons, the improvement of economic infrastructure, and the development of human resources. At the same time, Japan has resolutely criticized the despicable acts of terrorism caused by ISIL and other organizations and expressed support for the fight against terrorism in the international community.

The protracted crisis in Syria and the expansion of ISIL in Syria and Iraq have caused a massive number of internally displaced persons and an influx of refugees from both countries to neighboring countries and the European region.

Regarding the situation in Syria, Japan has repeatedly expressed at international conferences since 2015 that its contribution centers mainly on humanitarian assistance and political dialogue. In 2016, Japan also provided many assistance programs, including yen loans to Turkey and Jordan, which have been affected by the influx of refugees from Syria. The assistance that Japan has provided to Syria, Iraq and their neighboring countries exceeds 1.66 billion US dollars up until the end of 2016.

In relation to the Middle East Peace Process, Japan urged the resumption of peace talks on many occasions, including summit meetings held during Prime Minister Abe's visit to Israel and Palestine in January 2015 and at a summit meeting in Japan with President of Palestine Abbas in February 2016. 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).

January marked the “implementation day” of the final agreement on the Iranian nuclear issue, and the U.S. and the EU partially suspended or terminated sanctions against Iran. Following the final agreement, Japan will make efforts to further strengthen relations with Iran through such means as cooperation to encourage the steady implementation of the final agreement by Iran and the conclusion of the bilateral investment agreement.

In recent years, the Middle East countries have achieved steady economic development due to their rapidly growing youth population, and have been increasing their presence as a consumer market and an investment destination. Therefore, Japan has been working on establishing legal frameworks such as Economic Partnership Agreements (EPA), Free Trade Agreements (FTA), investment agreements, tax agreements, and social security agreements, which are foundations for strengthening the economic and business relationships with the Middle East countries. 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 and the business communities of each country.