Prime Minister Blair, Excellencies,
On behalf of the Government of Japan, I would like to express my great appreciation for the initiative of the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Tony Blair, and his Government in convening this meeting. This meeting is indeed taking place at the most opportune moment.
We now have positive circumstances in which to push forward the Middle East Peace Process: Mr. Abbas was elected as President of the Palestinian Authority. Prime Minister Sharon of Israel strengthened his political base by forming his new coalition government. The Prime Minister of Israel and the President of the Palestinian Authority met with each other for the first time in the past 4 and half years, and reaffirmed a mutual cessation of violence. Japan commends the peace efforts of both the Israeli and Palestinian leaders. The international community needs to actively support these efforts.
Japan firmly condemns in this regard the suicide bombing by extremists that occurred at the midnight of February 25 in Tel Aviv, which constitutes a serious challenge to such peace efforts.
The Peace Process cannot advance without an implementation by the two sides of their respective obligations dictated by the Roadmap. It is important for the international community to urge Israel to carry out the withdrawal in a manner consistent with the Roadmap, and to fulfill its other obligations under the Roadmap including the relaxation of closures and a freeze of settlement activities.
The head of delegation of the Palestinian Authority has just laid out his plan to pursue his reform agenda with firm determination and to establish responsible governance in preparation for the establishment of an independent state of Palestine. It is crucial for the international community to be united in supporting these efforts in a tangible manner without delay.
Japan welcomes the role the Arab states have played towards achieving peace and stability in the Middle East. The constructive undertakings by the Arab states, such as the Arab Initiative adopted at the Arab League Beirut Summit in 2002, have greatly contributed to the progress of the Peace Process. It is of vital importance that the Arab states make announcements on their intention to provide concrete economic assistance to the Palestinians.
The Government of Japan intends to actively engage itself with the Palestinian issue, and to work for its solution through reinforcing its contacts to the parties concerned and through extending active assistance to the Palestinians.
Japan has decided to provide new and additional assistance worth sixty million US dollars to strengthen the political base of President Abbas. All of this additional assistance will be disbursed by the end of this March. Half of it will be allocated to budget support and the other half will be disbursed for humanitarian purposes to address the urgent issue of unemployment and to improve living conditions.
Japan's assistance to the Palestinians has been mainly with respect to the humanitarian assistance, assistance for capacity and institution building, and assistance for confidence-building between the two parties. In addition to these three areas, efforts to help create a self-sustainable Palestinian economy will be a priority from medium to long term perspective. In this regard, the government of Japan plans to dispatch a mission to Israel and the Palestinian territories in March. This mission will study the current status of the closure policy, asses measures to explore ways to cooperate with the Mid Term Development Plan, and enhance the investment and the business environment through legislation and revitalizing the private sector.
Japan has been playing an active role on the issue of assistance and reform as a member of the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee and the Palestinian Reform Task Force. Therefore Japan has a strong intention to participate in the follow-up process in the areas of both "Governance" and "Economic Development".
In addition, Japan will intensify its efforts to make political approaches to the relevant parties. In this context, Dr. Tatsuo ARIMA, Special Envoy of the Government of Japan for the Middle East, will visit Israel and the Palestinian territories on March 4th - 7th . In order to have closer political dialogues, invitations have already been extended to President Abbas and Prime Minister Sharon to visit Japan, possibly in the first half of this year. Moreover, Japan intends to invite Palestinian ministers of the new cabinet to hold ministerial consultations in Japan.