Diplomatic Bluebook 2022
Japan's Foreign Policy by Region
3 The Situation in North Africa (Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco)
Egypt is a major power in the region playing a significant role in the stability of the Middle East and North Africa located in the northeast of the African continent and bordering Europe across the Mediterranean Sea. On the economic front, whereas the negative impact of COVID-19 (such as declining tourism revenues) continues, it has been limited compared with neighboring countries, and its GDP continues to maintain positive growth.
Steady progress has been seen in Japan-Egypt relations since President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi's visit to Japan in February 2016. Cooperation covers various areas such as introduction of Japanese-style education, strengthening support for the Egypt-Japan University of Science and Technology (E-JUST), and the construction program of the Grand Egyptian Museum (GEM). In March, a Japanese-related vessel ran aground in the Suez Canal, but the vessel departed safely in July. In March, State Minister for Foreign Affairs Washio issued a video message to the “Second Annual Meeting of the Aswan Forum” hosted by the Egyptian government. In April, Foreign Minister Motegi co-chaired the “Second Japan-Arab Political Dialogue” in an online format, attended by foreign ministers and representatives from member states and region of the League of Arab States. Following the Japan-Egypt Foreign Ministers' telephone call in June, Foreign Minister Motegi visited Egypt in August to strengthen relations with the country through talks with President El-Sisi and Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry. Minister Motegi also met with Ahumed Aboul Gheit, Secretary General of the League of Arab States, to strengthen relations with the League.
Regarding the two SDF personnel of the Multinational Force and Observers (MFO) stationed in the Sinai Peninsula, who have been dispatched since April 2019, a third rotation of personnel was conducted in April to continue to contribute to regional peace and stability.
In Libya, following the collapse of the Qadhafi administration in 2011, the parliament and the government have split, with each located in the east and the west of the country, respectively, and the situation remains unstable. In April 2019, Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, powerful commander of the eastern “Libyan National Army (LNA),” ordered an advance on Tripoli. Although it developed into an armed conflict, the Government of National Unity (GNA), with the support of Turkey, launched a counterattack since May 2020, resulting in a standoff along a line connecting the central coastal city of Sirte and the inland city of Jufra. Meanwhile, a permanent ceasefire agreement was signed between both sides later in October, and no major armed clashes have occurred since then.
On the political front, the UN-led National Dialogue Forum was held in Tunis in November 2020 with 75 Libyan representatives, and a basic agreement was reached to hold a series of elections on Independence Day on December 24, 2021. However the election-related law has not been enacted, and postponement of the elections was announced on December 22.
(3) Maghreb Countries
The Maghreb region is of great economic importance in Africa due to its geographical advantage of being located at the junction to Europe, the Middle East and Africa and its high potential due to its abundant and inexpensive young labor force. In addition, each country in the region has overcome the “Arab Spring” and maintained political stability in its own way. On the other hand, due to the impact of COVID-19, overcoming regional disparities and high unemployment rates has become an issue in Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia. There are also concerns about the security implications of the flow of weapons and illegal immigrants from Libya and the Sahel region.
The economic stagnation in Tunisia caused by COVID-19 and problems in the health care system have led to public dissatisfaction, and the Hechem Mechichi cabinet, which was inaugurated in September 2020, was forced to step down on July 25, 2021 by President Kais Saïed, who announced he would initiate political reforms in the country. He also suspended the activities of the Assembly of Representatives the same day with the aim of eradicating corruption in politics. Subsequently, the president nominated Najla Bouden to head the cabinet, and inaugurated the new cabinet on October 11 as the first female prime minister in Tunisia's history. It remains to be seen whether the new Bouden administration, under the leadership of President Saïed, will be able to quickly and adequately address the pressing economic and social challenges it faces today in a manner that enjoys broad public support.
In Algeria, the protests against the long rule of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika since February 2019 have become prolonged, resulting in the administration resigning in April. The presidential election was held in December 2019, and former Prime Minister Abdelmadjid Tebboune was elected. As part of the political reforms aimed at realizing a “new Algeria,” President Tebboune amended the constitution and held elections for the People's National Assembly (lower house). A referendum on constitutional reform was held on November 1, 2020, the anniversary of the Revolution, and despite the extremely low turnout (23.7%), the proposed constitutional reform was adopted. In June 2021, the People's National Assembly elections were held ahead of schedule, and the National Liberation Front continued to be the largest political force. Following the results of the election, Prime Minister Aïmene Benabderrahmane was appointed in July and a new cabinet was formed. In August, the Algerian government announced that it would sever diplomatic relations with Morocco, citing the country's ongoing hostilities.
In Morocco, the House of Representatives election was held on September 8, 2021, and the former second place party, the National Rally of Independents (RNI), advanced to hold the most seats, and occupied two-thirds of all seats by forming a coalition government with the Authenticity and Modernity Party (PAM) and the Istiqlal Party (PI). However, the Justice and Development Party (PJD), which has led the government for 10 years from 2011, was relegated to the opposition as it lost its seats to incumbent ministers, including Head of Government Saad Dine el Otmani, primarily due to the delay in taking measures against COVID-19 and the high unemployment rate. In the House of Councilors election held on October 5, the RNI, PAM and PI coalition also won a majority, but the PJD drastically reduced the number of seats. Following the results of both elections, leader of the RNI, Aziz Akhannouch, who was appointed by King Mohammed VI as Head of Government, formed a new cabinet on October 7. With the support of the ruling coalition, which has a majority in both houses, the focus of attention will be on how the Head of Government will implement economic and social policies in a stable manner.
2021 marked 60 years since the establishment of diplomatic relations between Japan and Kuwait.
The relations between Japan and Kuwait date back further than the formal establishment of diplomatic relations on December 8, 1961. Kuwait became independent in 1961, but active economic activity was already occurring, such as in 1958 when the Japanese-owned Arabian Oil Company conducted oil drilling in the Khafji Oil Field located offshore of the Saudi Arabian–Kuwaiti neutral zone.
In 2021, while taking thorough precautions against the spread of COVID-19, a range of commemorative events were held. To celebrate 60 years since the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries, Foreign Minister Motegi held two telephone calls with H.E. Sheikh Dr. Ahmad Nasser Al-Mohamed Al-Sabah, Minister of Foreign Affairs.
On December 8, the anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations, the Embassy of Kuwait in Japan hosted a photo exhibition charting the shared history of the two countries, and was attended by Parliamentary Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs Honda Taro. The opening of the exhibition featured a video message from Minister Ahmad, expressing congratulations to the governments and people of both countries.
On the same day, the landmark Kuwait Towers were specially illuminated to mark the 60th anniversary, with scenes of Japanese residents and Kuwaiti locals celebrating together beside the towers featured in state-run Kuwait Television and various newspapers.
2021 also marked ten years since the Great East Japan Earthquake, and the towers lit up in March to show solidarity between the two countries, which was demonstrated by the large amount of recovery assistance from Kuwait such as donations of crude oil. In addition, the Embassy of Japan in Kuwait produced and released a video conveying gratitude for the recovery assistance from Kuwait, which attracted many comments from Kuwaitis showing their hopes for the recovery of the disaster-struck area. In Japan, Nihonmatsu City in Fukushima Prefecture expressed its appreciation for assistance from Kuwait to the disaster-struck area by becoming the host town for the Kuwait Team at the Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020.
In addition, in November, the Japanese Association in Kuwait held the “Operation Tortoise” coastline cleanup day in Kuwait City. Hosted with the assistance of the Kuwait Environment Public Authority, in addition to Japanese residents, more than 800 Kuwaiti locals participated in the cleanup day. All participants wore T-shirts with the logo commemorating 60 years since the establishment of diplomatic relations between Japan and Kuwait.
Furthermore, the Embassy of Japan in Kuwait released online videos throughout the year showcasing Japanese language and culture as well as the cooperative relations between the two countries, such as Japan's initiatives in response to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990.
The wide range of initiatives taken in both Japan and Kuwait in 2021 provided reminders of the bonds between the two nations, and made it a year renewing the determination to further develop bilateral relations in the future.
2021 marked 50 years since the establishment of diplomatic relations between Japan and Qatar.
Qatar may not be very familiar to the people of Japan, but many will likely have heard the name of its capital, Doha. In 1993, the Japanese men's national soccer team played against Iraq in a match that determined whether or not the team would participate in the FIFA Soccer World Cup for the first time. During the extra time of the second-half of that match, the Japanese team allowed Iraq to catch-up to a tie, and ended up being eliminated in the preliminary round. This match, held in Qatar, became known as the “Tragedy of Doha.”
In addition, Japan and Qatar have built strong relations in the field of liquefied natural gas (LNG), which is mainly used as fuel for electricity generation. Japan imports over 8 million tons of LNG each year from Qatar, which is around 11% of the total import volume. Qatar is one of the world's leading LNG exporters, and with a per capita GDP of approximately 62,000 dollars, has become in a short period, one of the world's ten wealthiest countries. Japan has contributed to Qatar's development through its purchases of LNG.
In August 2021, which marked the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations, Foreign Minister Motegi visited Qatar, holding the First Japan-Qatar Foreign Ministers' Strategic Dialogue with H.E. Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al-Thani, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs. At the outset, Minister Motegi praised the outstanding performance of Qatari athletes at the Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020, and also expressed his will to further develop “the Comprehensive Partnership” between the two countries, taking this opportunity. The two Ministers of Foreign Affairs also held talks in New York at the United Nations General Assembly in September, agreeing to continue close collaboration to strengthen bilateral relations, including in response to issues concerning Afghanistan. Subsequently, Qatar assisted in the evacuation of Afghani nationals who have connections with Japan, and by the end of 2021, approximately 500 of them had left Afghanistan and safely arrived in Japan.
In addition, while taking thorough precautions against the spread of COVID-19, a range of events were successfully held, including a Japanese poetry competition in November co-hosted with the Qatar Ministry of Culture. In 2022, many occasions are being planned to further enliven the relations between Japan and Qatar, including a Japanese speech competition as well as karate and judo events.