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Joint Press Conference Following the Japan-Palestine Summit Meeting
May 16, 2005
[Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi Opening Statement]
I met with Mr. Mahmoud Abbas, the President of the Palestinian Interim Self-Government Authority, for the first time today. His visit to Japan and this meeting took place in an extremely meaningful manner on the advent of a historic opportunity to advance the Middle East peace process.
The world cannot afford to be indifferent about peace and stability in the Middle East. Peace in the Middle East is directly linked to the stability and prosperity of the world, and Japan intends to provide as much support as possible to realize the peaceful coexistence of Israel and Palestine, in line with the Roadmap.
At the meeting today, President Abbas expressed his strong resolve to realize peace and explained to me the serious efforts he has made in various reforms and measures to tackle difficult issues, the maintenance of security in particular, and that concrete results have been steadily achieved to date in this regard. President Abbas also indicated his resolve to stabilize the security situation and carry out political reform earnestly, which I highly appreciate.
I reaffirmed the importance of the international community uniting to support President Abbas' efforts to realize peace. Although there are limitations to what we can do, I explained that Japan, looking to fulfill its responsibility as a member of the international community, would continue to give serious consideration to proactive steps aimed at realizing peace in the Middle East and the peaceful coexistence of Israel and Palestine.
Bearing in mind Israel's withdrawal from Gaza in the near term, I expressed Japan's intention to extend approximately 100 million US dollars in total for the immediate future as assistance to the Palestinians.
Mr. Ariel Sharon, the Prime Minister of Israel, is planning to visit Japan in the near future. Without giving undue precedence to either the Palestinian or the Israeli side over each other, Japan intends to make vigorous efforts to realize their peaceful coexistence.
I also received an invitation to visit the Palestinian territories, and I would like to do so at the soonest possible opportunity.
I would like to express my heartfelt welcome to President Abbas, who is here on his first visit as president.
[President Mahmoud Abbas Opening Statement]
First of all, Prime Minister Koizumi, thank you very much for your kind invitation this time. I should also like to thank Prime Minister Koizumi for his personal efforts and the efforts of the Government of Japan for peace between the Israeli and the Palestinian sides.
In addition, as mentioned by Prime Minister Koizumi, we are most grateful for the economic assistance.
The meeting I had today with Prime Minister Koizumi was indeed very fruitful and constructive. I was able to discuss how the Japanese Government intends to play its part in contributing to progress in the peace process.
I explained to Prime Minister Koizumi the status of implementation of the commitment of the Palestinian side, in particular the implementation status of the Roadmap and the agreement at Sharm El-Sheikh.
With regard to the Japanese national who is missing in Iraq, I expressed today our deep sense of regret. One Palestinian national is also being detained and this situation should be completely rejected. For their release and a resolution of the situation, I intend to call for all possible support and assistance.
In the Palestinian territories, the Legislative Council and local elections will take place and we are engaged in efforts to build and set up security, a necessary condition to firmly maintain the rule of law. Rule of law means that equality will be established for all under law and under one legal authority. It also means one legitimate force and democratic pluralism.
With regard to the agreement at Sharm El-Sheikh and Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, Prime Minister Koizumi and I discussed about a need for these to be a part of the Roadmap effort, and we also talked about coordination between the Israeli and the Palestinian sides.
We will confirm here that the Israelis should suspend the building of a barrier and also suspend their activities in the settlements.
We hope that the Palestinian problem will be resolved politically as soon as possible, which we believe will lead to stability in the Middle East and comprehensive resolution of the Middle East situation.
Once again, I should like to take this opportunity to express my gratitude for the assistance provided by Japan. Japan's assistance has contributed greatly to development in the Palestinian territories.
Last but not least, I hope that Prime Minister Koizumi will visit the Palestinian territories at a moment that he deems to be appropriate.
[Q & A]
QUESTION 1: President Abbas, I would like to ask you two questions. I believe that in advancing peace together with Israel, the greatest challenge is how to suppress extremist activity by groups such as the Islamic fundamentalist organization Hamas. What steps are you thinking of taking to suppress such extremist activity? The other question is what kind of assistance you are specifically seeking from Japan in advancing the democratization process in the Palestinian territories and realizing economic reconstruction? Please tell us your thoughts.
PRESIDENT ABBAS: I believe what is important for the Palestinian political efforts and democratic pluralism is for Hamas to accept a truce with Israel and to participate in local elections and the election for the Palestinian Legislative Council. Hamas is not a form of threat for us. Japan has been providing very important economic assistance to the Palestinians, and Prime Minister Koizumi expressed additional economic assistance today. In addition, we hope that Japan will exercise its political influence as well. Japan has balanced relations with both parties to the conflict and therefore we believe that it is a possible role for Japan to take on.
QUESTION 2: Prime Minister Ariel Sharon of the State of Israel announced a postponement of the withdrawal from Gaza, according to reports. What is the effect of this continued postponement and non-implementation of United Nations Security Council resolutions? And, do you think that Japan can do more to support the Palestinian cause to make Israel implement all the UN resolutions?
PRESIDENT ABBAS: As I said earlier, Japan can play a well-balanced and major role.
With regard to withdrawal of Israel from Gaza and part of the northern area of the West Bank, that was a unilateral step by Israel.
For religious reasons, Prime Minister Sharon has announced a three-week postponement of the withdrawal, but I do not think that it will change the withdrawal essentially.
QUESTION 3: Prime Minister Koizumi, I would like to ask a question. The Government of Japan has invited President Abbas of the Palestinian Authority this time and will invite Prime Minister Sharon of Israel. In what way do you think the Middle East peace process will be advanced as a result of these visits? What kind of unique contribution do you think the Government of Japan can make in the Middle East peace process? Please tell us your thoughts.
PRIME MINISTER KOIZUMI: Prime Minister Sharon is scheduled to visit Japan in the near future. To date, Japan has seriously considered what kind of assistance it can offer in order to advance the efforts by the Palestinians and the Israerlis to realize their peaceful coexistence in line with the Roadmap. This, in other words, is the same proposal that I encouraged President Abbas to consider today.
Although I am aware that Japan is partially limited in terms of what it can do, I believe that there are many steps that Japan can take without giving undue precedence to either the Palestinians or the Israelis over each other. President Abbas and I discussed concrete cooperation for the Palestinian development today in this context. In order to address these issues and to carry out a concrete assistance program in the future, I intend to hold a ministerial-level conference between Japan and the Palestinian Authority in Tokyo during this fiscal year.
Japan cannot stay on the sidelines on the issue of peace in the Middle East in the days to come, and I am aware that peace in the Middle East is essential for Japan's development. I told President Abbas that I would like to make use of favorable opportunities such as today's meeting to seriously consider what can be done in the future to realize peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians, bearing in mind Japan's past record of assistance. I also said that I intend to consider the issue of concrete assistance with Prime Minister Sharon and President Abbas in the future. I hope to coordinate and cooperate closely not only with the two leaders but also the ministers and authorities in charge.
In this way, I believe that Japan can play a certain role in achieving peace and stability of the international community.
QUESTION 4: A question to Prime Minister Koizumi. Japan has already proposed in the past that it would be interested in hosting a tripartite summit meeting in Japan among President Abbas, Prime Minister Sharon and yourself. I wonder if this is a plan that can go ahead without an implementation of the withdrawal from Gaza. Secondly, as President Abbas properly stated, Japan has had a very balanced relationship with countries in the Middle East. However, don't you think, Prime Minister Koizumi, that having sent troops to Iraq has slightly damaged this balanced relationship with Arab countries?
PRIME MINISTER KOIZUMI: Firstly, with regard to your comment concerning the dispatch of the SDF to Iraq, I do not believe in anyway that it detracts from the balance of Japan's assistance to the Middle East. In response to Iraq's own efforts to build a stable and democratic administration, the international community is currently providing assistance in unified cooperation. It is in such an environment, and through addressing questions of what Japan is able to do, that the SDF were dispatched and are engaged in humanitarian and reconstruction assistance activites.
It is from this viewpoint that I do not believe in anyway that your comment about the dispatch of the SDF detracting from balanced relations is accurate as the SDF is engaged in creating peace and stability in the international community and a stable and democratic administration in Iraq.
As for your question concerning the tripartite summit talks with President Abbas and Prime Minister Sharon, President Abbas expressed his willingness in our talks today to participate in such a meeting with Prime Minister Sharon in Tokyo if such an opportunity arises. If both Prime Minister Sharon and President Abbas were to indicate that they wished to engage in talks with me, I would be only too delighted to provide a forum for such talks.
However, I cannot say at this stage when such talks would take place. Prime Minister Sharon is already scheduled to visit Japan soon and we will be holding talks. On that occasion, I will ask about the possibility for holding tripartite summit talks.
Whatever the case, peace in the Middle East is not something that Japan can stand by and watch without interest, nor is it something that has no implications for Japan. Therefore we will continue to consider what Japan can do to help the Israelis and the Palestinians achieve a peaceful resolution. Japan will continue to make active efforts to that end.