Stability in the Middle East is directly linked to Japan’s national interests in terms of energy supply and other aspects. Japan should help to ease regional tensions by continuing to contribute through economic cooperation and confidence-building among relevant countries.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe made a trip to the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Israel and Palestine. It was his first visit to the UAE since 2013, and his first visit to Jordan and the other places since 2015. It is hoped his return there will help strengthen ties between Japan and the region.
Regarding the Middle East peace issue, Abe announced anew Tokyo’s support for a “two-state solution,” in which Israel and Palestine coexist.
The path toward attaining the solution is rocky. The administration of U.S. President Donald Trump is pushing a pro-Israel policy, which includes the planned relocation of its embassy to Jerusalem. That has sparked a strong backlash from Palestinians, who are refusing peace negotiations mediated by the United States.
Abe told Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, “Japan has no intention of moving its embassy.” He also said, “It is important to sit down at the negotiating table face to face when the United States offers any proposals.” It is significant that Abe urged dialogue between the parties concerned.
Abe has also agreed with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to cooperate in Japan’s “corridor for peace and prosperity” initiative intended to help regional economic growth facilitate the peace process.
Based on this concept, Japan has completed an agro-industrial park in Palestine jointly with Israel, Palestine and Jordan. Bringing information technology companies into this initiative is being considered.
Japan should back the economic independence of Palestinians by using its expertise from its many years of aid to developing countries in Asia.
Help maintain nuke deal
In their summit meeting, the leaders of Japan and the UAE have agreed to cooperate in 12 areas, including security, agriculture and space development.
The UAE is accelerating efforts to make a shift to an industrial structure that does not depend on oil. There is no doubt that investments in wider areas will contribute to the country’s reform. For Japan, which relies on the UAE for a quarter of its crude oil imports, the expansion of economic cooperation should help secure resources.
Abe initially considered visiting Iran and Saudi Arabia, but decided not to, in light of rising tensions over the Iran nuclear deal. Trump has been strongly critical of the agreement and plans to decide whether to pull the United States from the accord by May 12.
Under the 2015 agreement reached by Iran and six other parties, including the United States and European countries, financial sanctions and a ban on crude oil trade have been lifted in return for Tehran’s restrictions on nuclear-related activities. If Washington withdraws and the sanctions are imposed again, that could drive Iran to develop nuclear weapons and cause further instability in the Middle East.
Although Iran’s actions, such as the development of ballistic missiles and intervention in regional conflicts, have posed many issues, the nuclear agreement has been maintained. Japan should call on relevant countries to exercise restraint in regard to maintaining the agreement.