Visits to Japan of Shimon Peres, Special Envoy and Former Prime Minister of Israel, and Yasser Arafat, Chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization
August 21, 2000
Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Japan
Shimon Peres, special envoy of Prime Minister Ehud Barak of Israel and former prime minister, visited Japan on August 14 and 15, and Yasser Arafat, chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization, visited Japan on August 17 and 18. They both had talks with Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori and Minister for Foreign Affairs Yohei Kono. The following is a summary of the visits.
(1) Visit of Special Envoy Peres
- As an explanation of last month's summit at Camp David in the United States, Special Envoy Peres stated, among other things, that (i) despite the fact that Prime Minister Barak took a concessionary position towards the Palestinians, the Palestinian side was not ready to make necessary compromises, and (ii) the gaps between the two sides on such issues as the independence of the Palestinian state, the territorial problem, the mode of the Palestinian economy, and Israeli security were not so wide, but the issue of Jerusalem remained the most difficult. Also, while describing Chairman Arafat as his friend did a pragmatic and responsible politician, Special Envoy Peres expressed concern that the peace efforts until now would be brought to naught if the Palestinian side took the unilateral step of declaring independence without an agreement with Israel. He asked Japan to relay this concern to Chairman Arafat, who was scheduled to visit Japan later.
- In response, the Japanese side stressed that a settlement through negotiations was the only option for the achievement of peace in the Middle East and expressed hope that Israel and the Palestinians would resume negotiations as soon as possible toward the target date of September 13 and would achieve peace.
- Furthermore, Special Envoy Peres emphasized that "economic peace" was just as important as diplomatic peace and requested Japan's cooperation at the public and private levels for such regional projects as the construction of a railway linking the Dead Sea and Red Sea and the "e-peace project" linking primary and secondary schools in Jordan, the West Bank and Gaza, and Israel through a computer network.
(2) Visit of Chairman Arafat
- Chairman Arafat expressed gratitude for Japan's support for the Palestinians so far. As an assessment of the Camp David summit, he said that discussions covered such issues as Jerusalem, refugees, water resources, and territory. The summit did not produce any results, he said, because Israel has not implemented previous agreements between Israel and the Palestinian, including the Sharm El-Sheikh agreement on the independence of the Palestinian State by September, and had not made necessary compromises. Jerusalem, he said, was a sacred place not only for Jews but also for Muslims and Christian. Chairman Arafat said that he could not easily compromise on the matter of Israel's claim of sovereignty over Jerusalem.
- Furthermore, Chairman Arafat explained the sufferings of the Palestinian people, who had lived without a state and without hope for 53 years and who had been waiting for more than a year since the postponement of the declaration of independence in May 1999. If the Palestinian problem remains unsettled, he said, the Middle East could explode.
- In response, the Japanese side stated that (i) Japan has been a friend of the Palestinian and has been supporting the right of self-determination, including the right of the Palestinian people to establish an independent state; (ii) however, in seven years of talks, as negotiations touching on the core issues had just begun for the first time at the recent summit at Camp David, if the Palestinians were to declare independence without an agreement with Israel, they would lose a lot, and, therefore, Japan strongly hoped for Palestine's persistence in negotiations; (iii) once the Palestinians were to achieve independence peacefully as a result of such efforts, Japan would immediately consider the recognition of the Palestinian State.
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