Genba visits Afghanistan, pledges aid during meeting with Karzai

Kyodo

Foreign Minister Koichiro Genba pledged Wednesday to provide continued support for Afghanistan’s development during talks with President Hamid Karzai, at a time when the security situation in many parts of the country is precarious and the global community is seeking a workable framework for its stability.

Genba made a “surprise” visit to Kabul in an attempt to lay the groundwork for a ministerial conference on Afghanistan scheduled for July in Tokyo aimed at identifying the war-ravaged country’s development priorities.

Karzai promised to take part in the Tokyo conference, Genba said, adding that the two agreed to work closely for its success. Japan is inviting delegates from around 50 countries.

After the talks, Genba told reporters he called for more efforts by the Afghan government to eradicate corruption, promote the rule of law and improve governance, noting that all are vital to secure financial assistance in the coming years.

The schedule for Genba’s one-day trip to Kabul, using a charter flight from Abu Dhabi, was not made public in advance due to security reasons.

His visit, the first by a Japanese foreign minister since July 2010, came at a time when concern is growing that a cut in foreign aid to Afghanistan could accompany the scheduled withdrawal of U.S.-led international combat troops by the end of 2014.

Last year marked the 10th anniversary of the U.S.-led military campaign in Afghanistan.

The Tokyo conference will follow up on an international meeting last month in Bonn where the commitment was made to continue the engagement with Afghanistan beyond 2014.

Japan has pledged up to $5 billion in aid over five years from 2009. As of November, around $1.75 billion had been rolled out.

Before flying out of Kabul, Genba also discussed regional cooperation with his Afghan counterpart, Zalmai Rassoul.

Genba, on an eight-day overseas tour, was scheduled to return to Tokyo later Thursday. In addition to Afghanistan, he also visited Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates to discuss regional and energy issues.

Abe to visit Myanmar

kyodo

Former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will head to Myanmar on Saturday for an aid project led by his Liberal Democratic Party to help the country establish more elementary schools.

Abe, who heads a group of LDP lawmakers helping to build elementary schools in Asia, will meet with top Myanmar officials, including President Thein Sein, and take part in the opening ceremony at a school, LDP officials said Wednesday. The visit will last through Tuesday.

The group, launched in 1997, has helped build elementary schools in Cambodia, Laos and Thailand, according to Abe’s website.