It has been reported that eight volunteer workers, including Japanese, who were providing humanitarian assistance in the Palestinian Autonomous Areas were taken into custody by the Israeli authorities. I think that such an action against volunteer workers, who are working peacefully, is illegal and that the Japanese Government should lodge a strong protest. What is the stance of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on this issue? Please also, tell me the basic position of the Japanese Government on the Palestinian issue.

June 2002

1. Concerning the Arrest of the Humanitarian Aid Workers

(1) On June 1st 2002, the eight volunteer workers, including one Japanese: Mr. Makoto Hibino, were taken into custody by the Israeli army on charges of breach of the "Closed Military Zone." They were in the Balata Refugee Camp on the outskirts of Nablus in the Palestinian Autonomous Areas on the West Bank. Mr. Hibino was later released and he is now appealing to the Jerusalem District Court to cancel the deportation order by the Israeli immigration authorities.

(2) The Japanese Government has been issuing warnings to Japanese nationals to postpone travel to the West Bank and Gaza strip for any reason, in light of the ongoing instability and danger in the area. After the arrest of Mr. Hibino's group, consular staffs from the Japanese Embassy in Israel, met with Mr. Hibino and inquired about his health and about his treatment from the perspective of protecting Japanese nationals. They also heard his requests and responded appropriately as events unfolded. The Embassy has been asking the Israeli authorities for an adequate treatment.

(3) The Government of Japan is concerned about the serious humanitarian situation in the Palestinian Autonomous Areas and is proactively providing emergency humanitarian aid to help the Palestinian people. Japan is coordinating and cooperating with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) which have expertise, technology and human resources from the perspective of the smooth implementation of humanitarian aid. The Government of Japan has been repeatedly appealing to Israel to cease the invasion and blockade of the Palestinian Autonomous Areas by the Israeli army, and will continue to do so.

2. The Japanese Government's Basic Position on the Palestinian Issue

(1) The Japanese Government recognizes that the Palestinian issue affects the stability of the Middle East region as a whole, which is a very important region to Japan, and furthermore the stability of the international community. Therefore Japan has been appealing to both sides to end the vicious cycle of violence and to find a peaceful resolution to the conflict. Japan has also provided economic assistance to the Palestinians.

(2) The Government of Japan's position is that both sides should listen to the voices calling for peace, exercise maximum self-control in order to resolve the conflict through peaceful negotiations. The Japanese Government hopes that just, lasting and comprehensive peace will be achieved in the Middle East through this process as soon as possible.

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