Extraordinary Press Conference by Foreign Minister Taro Kono
Friday, November 23, 2018, 7:17 p.m. Rome, Italian Republic
Mr. Taro Kono, Minister for Foreign Affairs: I attended the Mediterranean Dialogues (MED) as the first Japanese Foreign Minister. I was also told that I was the first minister from Asia.
At the dialogue session, I underscored the close ties between the Mediterranean and the Indo-Pacific regions and discussed the importance of strengthening connectivity between the two regions.
I introduced initiatives that are in line with the “Kono Four Principles,” while focusing on the Jericho Agro-Industrial Park (JAIP). Hoping that the Mediterranean region will also join the list of countries importing products made in JAIP, I brought with me some of the actual products and showed the products to make an appeal. This drew a large round of applause from the audience, and I believe the reaction was positive.
Following on from last month’s Manama Dialogue, I was once again able to convey Japan’s views on achieving stability in the Middle East as well as Japan’s enduring efforts such as JAIP. It reaffirmed the importance of spreading our message continuously. Afterwards, I held a working lunch for approximately one hour with Mohammad Javad Zarif, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Iran. We exchanged candid views regarding the bilateral relationship, the agreement on the Iranian nuclear issue in particular, and regional situations. In addition, as next year will mark the 90th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Japan and Iran, we shared the view on working to make next year a wonderful year.
I then held a meeting with Secretary General of the League of Arab States Ahmed Aboul Gheit. We exchanged views regarding strengthening the cooperative relations between Japan and the League of Arab States. I also asked Secretary General Aboul Gheit to visit Japan during this fiscal year.
Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Viktorovich Lavrov of Russia and I discussed primarily the issue of concluding a peace treaty, bearing in mind the outcomes of the summit meeting in Singapore. We shared the view on deepening the discussion between the two foreign ministers, in view of the agreement between the leaders to “accelerate negotiations on a peace treaty based on the 1956 Joint Declaration as the cornerstone.”
In Vatican, through my courtesy call on Secretary of State Pietro Parolin and meeting with Secretary for Relations with States Paul Richard Gallagher, I sought to further deepen the relationship between Japan and the Vatican and exchanged views towards materializing the Pope’s visit to Japan. I would also like to say I am overjoyed that Osaka was selected to host the 2025 World Exposition today. I will now take your questions.
Reporter: I have a question regarding the Japan-Russia foreign ministers’ meeting which you mentioned briefly in your opening remarks. You stated that the two ministers shared the view bearing in mind the recent Japan-Russia summit meeting. Could you please elaborate a little more on what was discussed to the extent possible?
Minister Kono: We shared the view that extensive discussion will take place between the two foreign ministers bearing in mind the agreement between the leaders. We held an in-depth discussion on the issue of concluding a peace treaty, including a one-on-one meeting.
Reporter: What are your thoughts on the prospects, now that you have held talks with the Minister?
Minister Kono: Since the leaders have already agreed to accelerate the negotiations on a treaty, I will work to ensure that this agreement is materialized.
Reporter: I would like to ask about your last remark regarding your meeting with the States of Vatican. It seems that the Pope wishes to visit Japan. Did the Vatican mention any concrete timeframe for the visit?
Minister Kono: We will be coordinating closely on the timing and other details. It seems the Pope has a strong desire to visit Japan, so I stated that Japan very much looks forward to hosting and welcoming the Pope.
Reporter: I would like to return to the subject of Russia. You said based on the 1956 Declaration, which states the handing over of two islands. Russia has repeatedly said publicly that sovereignty over the two islands will also be part of the negotiations. Was there any discussion today on such positions of Japan and Russia?
Minister Kono: I would like to refrain from making any comments regarding the content of the discussion.
Reporter: Osaka has been chosen to host the World Expo. Could you please say a little more about your expectations for Osaka’s hosting of the World Exposition?
Minister Kono: Fortunately, I believe we can say that the “All-Japan” efforts have paid off. We were up against Russia and Azerbaijan, and I would like to laud their great efforts. I hope to make this one of the driving forces of inbound tourism, as well as the spark for the further development of the Kinki region centered around Osaka. Now that we can stand at the starting line, I ask that everyone involved work hard to ensure that the World Expo serves as a venue that can fully disseminate Japan’s various dreams for the 21st century to the world.
Reporter: With regard to Russia, you stated that the two foreign ministers would continue to deepen the discussion to realize the leaders’ agreement. What will this exactly entail? Is it correct to envision that the two foreign ministers would be meeting face-to-face and hold consultations and that they would discuss the outstanding issues?
Minister Kono: I expect that the concrete format will be determined based on the agreement between the leaders. We will seek to ensure that steady and active discussion is also held between the two foreign ministers.