CAIRO – Foreign Minister Koichiro Genba expressed Tokyo’s readiness Thursday to actively support Egypt’s democratization to stabilize the situation in the country.
Genba showed the stance at his meetings in the Egyptian capital with Prime Minister Kamal Ganzouri and Saad Katatni, head of the country’s Parliament.
He is the first Japanese minister to visit Egypt since the collapse of the regime of former President Hosni Mubarak in February last year.
Katatni told Genba that economic issues are the key in Egypt at the moment, adding that he wants Japan to transfer its industrial expertise to the country.
Genba told reporters after the meetings that the stability of Egypt is crucial for the stability of the entire Middle East, and that Japan needs to support Egypt in areas where it has strength.
Egypt should pursue moderate and realistic policies on the diplomatic front, Genba said in reference to a rise of Muslim groups in the country.
Genba also met with Arab League Secretary General Nabil al-Araby and exchanged views with him on the situation in Syria, where bloody crackdowns on antigovernment protesters are continuing.
They shared the view that it is important to help lead to success the mediation effort by former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, who is now the Arab League and the U.N.’s special envoy for stabilizing the Syrian situation.
Gazprom eyes pipeline
Visiting Democratic Party of Japan policy chief Seiji Maehara and Alexander Medvedev, vice president of Russia’s state-run energy giant Gazprom, agreed Thursday that they will study the possibility of laying a gas pipeline linking the two countries.
The agreement came as concerns mount electricity supply shortages with the shutdown of Japan’s nuclear power reactors for checks and stress tests ordered after Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 atomic plant suffered three meltdowns.
The envisaged pipeline will run through the Soya Strait between Hokkaido and the Far East island of Sakhalin.
After the meeting with Medvedev, Maehara said at a press conference that the Gazprom executive proposed the construction of the gas pipeline to Japan.
Maehara told Medvedev that Tokyo and the ruling DPJ are ready to consider the idea of building a pipeline and cited the Soya Strait as a possible route because a pipeline between Hokkaido and southern Sakhalin has already been laid. Medvedev replied that the Soya Strait option put forward by Maehara is worth considering, noting that such a pipeline is technically feasible in view of the width and depth of the strait, according to Maehara.
The shortest distance between Sakhalin and Cape Soya in Hokkaido across the Soya Strait is about 40 km, and the depth of water there is about 70 meters.