Press Statement
by Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan, Mr. Shintaro Ito

Jerusalem, August 3, 2006

1. I am visiting Israel and the Palestinian Autonomous Territories today for the second time after my first visit here in January this year when I led the Japanese Observer Team for the Palestinian Legislative Council elections. The purpose of this visit is to follow-up on Prime Minister Koizumi's visit in July and to conduct a frank exchange of views with Israeli and Palestinian leaders following the latest, turbulent events in this region. I had a meaningful conversation with Israeli Foreign Minister Tsippi Livni and, from Palestinian Authority, Dr. Nasser Al-Kidwa, Former Minister of Foreign Affairs and Dr. Rafig Husseini, Chief Adviser to President Abbas yesterday concerning the situation on Israeli-Lebanese border and on the Palestinian territories.

(Situation in Israel-Lebanon)

2. The Government of Japan is deeply concerned about the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Lebanon and the widely spread damages by rocket attacks in northern Israel as a result of the confrontation. In order to resolve the current crisis, Hezbollah must first release the abducted two Israeli soldiers and cease the rocket attacks. At the same time, Israel has to exercise maximum restraint to prevent the loss of lives of innocent civilians and damages on civilian infrastructure in Lebanon. In this connection, we regret the loss of lives of four UN peacekeepers on the 25th of July as well as many civilians, including children, on the 30th by Israel Air Force strikes. I yet again reiterated my Government's call for maximum restraint to my Israeli colleague. I also explained the Japanese government's position that it is important not only to ensure immediate cease-fire but also, in the longer term, to achieve a comprehensive peace among the parties concerned through effective measures including the deployment of an International Stabilization Force, which would lead to a sustainable cease-fire.

3. We are concerned about the spread of a cycle of hatred in Lebanon and the Arab-Islamic world as the number of victims and the extent of damages increase. We also have serious concerns over the growing trend of radicalism and its negative implication on the Middle East peace process in the long run. I strongly urged the Israeli government to deal with the situation from a broader perspective, taking into consideration Israel's long-term strategic interests, and to act prudently in tackling these issues.

(Palestinian Problem)

4. Last month, when Prime Minister Koizumi visited this region he reiterated his support for President Abbas who is striving for peaceful co-existence with Israel based on the two-state solution. He also expressed his intention to take an initiative toward establishing a "Corridor of Peace and Prosperity" through cooperation with the Governments of Israel and Jordan, as well as the Palestinian Authority. This is part of Japan's efforts to realize co-existence and co-prosperity between Israel and Palestine. I was pleased to note that both the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority reiterated their willingness to work with us despite the current difficulties.

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