ABU DHABI — Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono sought cooperation from his counterpart in the United Arab Emirates on Sunday for the renewal of oil-field contracts held by Japanese firms.
During a meeting in Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the UAE’s foreign minister, responded that the UAE attaches importance to relations with Japan.
About 60 percent of oil rights owned by Japanese companies in offshore oil fields near Abu Dhabi are set to expire next March and Tokyo hopes they will be extended as the UAE is the second-largest oil supplier to Japan after Saudi Arabia.
“I said that Japanese companies want to continue to (hold the rights), and they responded that they will give due consideration to the historically good relations with Japan, and that they welcome (Japan),” Kono told reporters after meeting both the foreign minister and Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan.
Kono has been visiting the Middle East since earlier this month to attend a meeting on security in the region in Bahrain and seek the renewal of the oil-field contracts.
He said he also exchanged views with the UAE officials on regional issues including the situations in North Korea, China, Qatar, Iraq and Yemen, as well as the recent U.S. decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
On Jerusalem, Kono said he thinks the UAE is “reacting calmly” to the U.S. move, while sharing with Japan an awareness of the need for the United States to be involved in efforts for peace between the Israelis and Palestinians.
Kono refrained from revealing the details of his “rather frank” discussion about Qatar, with which the UAE and several others in the region cut off diplomatic ties earlier this year, but said it “would not be good for Japan” for the issue to drag on.
The rift revolves around allegations that Qatar supports terrorism and is too close to Iran, though the tiny, gas-rich emirate denies the charge.
Kono’s visit to the UAE is his first since becoming foreign minister in August.
He is set to leave Abu Dhabi on Monday for Paris, where he is scheduled to speak at a climate change summit on Tuesday.