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Gov’t reviewing Middle East strategy with an eye on ties with Iran, Saudi Arabia

  • 2016-01-25 15:00:00
  • , Sankei
  • Translation

(Sankei: January 24, 2016 – p. 1)

 

 The government on Jan. 23 began reviewing its strategy for the Middle East upon the lifting of economic sanctions on Iran. It is becoming difficult to strengthen ties with Iran quickly, as Saudi Arabia, a major source of Japan’s oil and a close ally of the U.S., has severed its ties with Iran. The government will take a comprehensive look into economy, diplomacy and national security with an eye on diversifying energy procurement sources beyond the Middle East, and come up with concrete measures in line with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s “middle-of-the-road” approach.

 

 The government had initially planned to sign an investment treaty with Tehran soon after the lifting of sanctions when Iran and five nations clinched a final deal on Iran’s nuclear program in July 2015. But it needs to review its strategies as tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia are intensifying.

 

 Saudi Arabia is growing wary that the lifting of sanctions by Japan, the U.S., and Europe may bolster Tehran’s economic might. “Iran’s nuclear armament is its biggest concern,” said a source close to the U.S. Department of State.

 

 Saudi Arabia partners with the U.S, which means it plays a pivotal role in international negotiations to bring about stability in the Middle East. The country is also essential for Japan to ensure a stable supply of oil.

 

 A senior official with the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs noted: “Prioritizing improving ties with Iran could deteriorate ties with Saudi Arabia so we need to show that Japan is also committed to friendly ties with Saudi Arabia.” To this end, the government is carefully considering accepting Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s invitation to Abe to visit the country. (Abridged)

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