Diplomatic Bluebook 2022

Chapter 2

Japan's Foreign Policy by Region

Section 7 The Middle East and North Africa

1 Overview

The Middle East and North Africa (the Middle East) is located in a geopolitically important area: the crossroads of Europe, sub-Saharan Africa, Central Asia and South Asia. The region is a vital supplier of energy, representing approximately 50% of the world's oil reserves and 40% of the world's natural gas reserves and also a market with high potential, pursuing the diversification of economy and decarbonization, especially in the Gulf countries, against a backdrop of a high population growth rate.

Meanwhile, the region has gone through various conflicts and disputes along its history, and still faces a number of destabilizing factors and challenges. In recent years, regional tension is growing over Iran, and political turmoil continues in various regions since the “Arab Spring” in 2011. The civil war continues in Syria, resulting in a large number of refugees and internally displaced persons, and it has made a great impact on the stability of the entire region, including its neighboring countries. In Yemen, severe security and humanitarian conditions continue as the Houthis clash with the Yemeni Government and the Arab Coalition (led by Saudi Arabia and others, at the request of the Yemeni Government). The risk of the spread of violent extremism such as the “Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant” (ISIL) also remains in some areas. On the other hand, there were signs in 2020 that the situation is changing. The United Arab Emirates(UAE), Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco have agreed to normalize diplomatic relations with Israel, and in January 2021, severance of the diplomatic relations with Qatar, which had been ongoing since June 2017, was resolved.

The Biden administration of the U.S., inaugurated in January 2021, has announced that it will hold talks with Iran to return to the Iran nuclear deal, from which the previous administration had withdrawn. Regarding the Middle East Peace Process, the administration has worked on improving relations with Palestine. As such, the impact of various policies on the Middle East is drawing attention, and at the end of August 2021, the U.S. military ended its mission in Afghanistan after about 20 years.

Japan imports approximately 90% of its crude oil from the Middle East, and it is extremely important for Japan's peace and prosperity to promote peace and stability in the Middle East and to maintain and develop good relations with countries in the region. From this perspective, Japan in recent years has been striving to strengthen relations with Middle Eastern countries in a wide range of fields that include the economy, politics, security, culture and people-to-people exchanges. In August, Foreign Minister Motegi visited eight countries and regions in the Middle East, including Iraq, which was the first visit in 15 years for a Foreign Minister of Japan.As Japan has continued its contribution to the peace and stability of the region and has earned the trust of each country, the Minister reiterated Japan's commitment to the Middle East and affirmed to work together closely for regional stability. Regarding Afghanistan, Japan has been providing humanitarian assistance and reaching out to the Taliban in cooperation with the international community since the situation in Afghanistan deteriorated in August 2021.

With infections of COVID-19 continuing to spread in the Middle East, Japan has provided ODA totaling about 2.9 billion Japanese yen to fight the virus. Japan has been introducing such assistance and the importance of addressing the issue based on the concept of human security, especially in vulnerable regions, as well as at international conferences at the ministerial level.