January 10, 1999
SPEECH BY THE FOREIGN MINISTER OF JAPAN
MR. KOUMURA AT THE PALESTINIAN COUNCIL
'BUILDING A NEW BRIDGE BETWEEN JAPAN AND THE MIDDLE
EAST TOWARD THE 21ST CENTURY'
The Speaker of the Palestinian Council, Members of the Palestinian Council, distinguished guests,
I am highly honored to be the first Foreign Minister of Japan to be addressing here before the honorable representatives of the Palestinian people today. I would like to extend my sincere gratitude to the Speaker and all those who have accorded such an opportunity.
Three years ago, when the election of the Palestinian Council was held, Japanese election monitoring team consisting of 77 people, headed by the current Prime Minister Obuchi, participated to see the first election by the Palestinians held successfully. As a member of the parliament, I sincerely hope that a day when a liberal and democratic society is established here at the land of Palestine will come, with the Palestinian Council, sanctuary of the Palestinian democracy, playing a central role. This is my fist visit to the Palestinian Self-Governing Area. I see here and there signs that the construction of the Palestinian society and economy is underway and also sense the vitality of the Palestinian people.
The Palestinian people, having been forced to undergo hardships for over a number of years, have the right to live in peace with dignity. The international community including Japan would never leave the Palestinians behind. The Japanese Government and its people, standing on the people's side, will continue to provide our utmost morale support and economic assistance over time, in order to realize the hopes and rights of the Palestinian people.
Japan's economic assistance to the Palestinians over the past five years amounts to more than $400 million. We have contributed to approximately 2.2 million Palestinian people through our assistance to 14 hospitals in the West Bank and Gaza strip. Educational environment of approximately 24 thousand pupils has been improved with our assistance to 52 elementary and junior high schools.
As we pledged in Washington, D.C. at the recent Conference to Support Middle East Peace and Development, Japan is ready to provide up to $200 million of assistance in the coming two years. As a part of this pledge, we have recently decided to provide assistance for the infrastructure building and human resources development for the Gaza International Airport through the UNDP, to secure the gateway of air traffic for the Palestinians.
Furthermore, Japan wishes to take more active role in the donor coordination for effective assistance, and in nurturing an environment where the assistance could contribute to the confidence building between the parties concerned. If countries concerned agree, Japan is ready to host the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee meeting within this year in Tokyo. Japan is chairing the Environmental Working Group in the framework of the Multilateral Track of the peace process. Through the activities in the Working Group, we would like to promote regional cooperation with Palestinians and the surrounding nations in the area of environment, which requires regional cooperative efforts beyond the borders.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The 20th Century, unfortunately, has been a century of wars and conflicts. The 21st Century should be succeeded to the new generation as the century of peace and prosperity.
The spirit of dialogue should be a pioneer on the road to the century of peace and prosperity, and also a key to transform the era of confrontation to that of coexistence. The spirit of dialogue always requires genuine courage. I believe that people, who looked toward the future and achieved the Oslo Agreements to realize peace, had the courage in this sense. In this regard, I would like to express my hearty support and pay tribute to Chairman Arafat and other members of the Palestinian Authority and the Palestinian Council, for having overcome the history of confrontation and animosity against Israel, for having chosen the future of coexistence with Israel, for leaving armed strife, and for committing to the efforts toward peace and prosperity in the whole Middle East region through negotiation.
Oppression and violence create further oppression and violence, and enhance the vicious circle of distrust and hatred. I believe that the road to mutual understanding and peace in a true sense, though it may seem a long way round, should be through thorough and continuous dialogues, fully recognizing the position of the other side and avoiding unilateral actions which might amplify the misunderstanding and distrust.
In the meetings scheduled tomorrow, I will sincerely request Israeli leaders to implement the existing agreements, which are the fruits of dialogues, and seek their continuous efforts for such dialogues. The international community including the Government of Japan is ready to support these efforts.
I have visited Lebanon and Syria prior to visiting here in this tour. I had meetings with the Presidents and Foreign Ministers of each country. Both countries seek for the progress of peace, just the same as the Palestinians do. I sincerely hope for and support the progress of peace through dialogue in order to realize comprehensive peace in the Middle East and to achieve peace and prosperity in the whole region. Japan strongly hopes that issues on the Syrian track and Lebanese track will make progress in accordance with the relevant UN Security Council resolutions. Today I would like to propose the four point principles on the Southern Lebanon. First, the withdrawal of Israeli forces from Southern Lebanon should be implemented as stipulated in the UN Security Council Resolution 425. Second, the aforementioned withdrawal should lead to a comprehensive Middle East peace. Third, the process of withdrawal should not be hindered and parties should discuss its concrete steps without any precondition. And fourth, the international community should render its support to the stabilization of Southern Lebanon after Israeli withdrawal. Japan will make efforts to facilitate communication among parties concerned as the first step of dialogue.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The Middle East and Japan, at the western and eastern ends of Asia, were connected by the 'Silk Road' in the history. The exchanges and cooperation beyond ethnic and cultural differences have so far nourished various civilizations. The Middle East is a region rich in natural resources, and also a region which has experienced many confrontations and conflicts in the modern age. Stability in the Middle East is extremely important for global peace and stability, and for the global economy as well.
Settlement of the long lasting Middle East conflict and achievement of peace and stability in the region, has a vital importance for the prosperity of the East Asia including Japan. In this regard, we committed to address the issue in the region as an issue of our own interest.
In the coming century, it is important for the Middle East and Japan, the two ends of Asia, to further deepen the exchange and cooperation with each other, so as to attain further prosperity for both of us.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Let me speak about the concrete initiative of 'Building a New Bridge between Japan and the Middle East toward the 21st Century', based on the ideas I referred before. This initiative is sought to promote both bilateral relations and regional cooperation simultaneously, to establish a multi-layered partnership.
I would like to take the following three approaches as the pillars of the initiative.
The first is to activate political dialogue. I am determined to take advantage of this tour in the Middle East to play a political role in making direct and indirect approaches to the parties concerned.
As the second approach, we will make effort for multilateral confidence building. I would like to promote the mutual understanding and confidence building among Japan, Arab, and Israel. For example, we have been inviting young people in the Middle East to exchange programs in Japan. We would like to promote in the future, youth exchanges such as exchange games by youth football teams, and the 'Seminar on Japan and the Middle East' to deepen the mutual understanding, and the trilateral joint research on themes such as environmental law and regulation and combatting desertification.
The third approach is to actively promote the cooperation for sustainable economic development. We will continue to provide peace dividends to the countries that have already achieved peace with Israel, such as Egypt and Jordan. We will also continue our support for human resource building and nation building of Palestinians, by sending Japanese experts to the region for example, as one of the largest donors. In addition to the assistance to the West Bank and Gaza Strip, assistance to the Palestinian refugees, including those who are in surrounding nations of Lebanon, Syria and Jordan, will be continued as well. Promotion of market economy in the fields of private investment and technology transfer will be supported.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
As we approach the 21st century, I believe that it is necessary to build a society in which everyone can feel the peace and prosperity at hand, and be sure that their future will be brighter. The Mashreq is a region with long history and tradition, in which various religions, cultures, and people have coexisted. The region prospered as a result of the free traffic of people with such diversified backgrounds. The prosperity of the region requires the 'Corridor of Peace' beyond the border, which enables free traffic of people and goods. And what materializes the Corridor of Peace is the 'Corridor of Spirit,' nourished by the spirit of dialogue to connect people's hearts.
Lastly, on behalf of the Government and people of Japan, I sincerely wish for the patient hope of the Palestinians in achieving peace and prosperity, and would like to reaffirm our will to extend our utmost support to this end.
Thank you very much for your attention.
Related Information (Japan-Middle East Relations)
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