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Abe pledges $78 million in humanitarian aid to visiting Abbas

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Staff Writer

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Monday offered $78 million in fresh humanitarian assistance to visiting Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, renewing his vow to support the Middle East peace process amid yet another period of tension.

Funded by the supplementary budget, the aid will be used for food, medical supplies, and financial assistance to the Palestinian government through international organizations.

During a joint news conference, Abe also reaffirmed that Japan will assist Palestinians with boosting the tourism industry by helping to preserve a mosaic at the Great Bath at Hisham’s Palace, an example of Islamic architecture from the Umayyad Era in the eighth century.

“As the host nation of the Group of Seven summit and a nonpermanent member of the U.N. Security Council, Japan will cooperate closely with Palestine and offer more assistance,” Abe said at a joint news conference.

Abbas’ visit comes at a crucial time for the Middle East peace process, which has been stalled since April 2014.

Tensions between the Palestinians and Israelis have been escalating since a conflict broke out in the Gaza Strip in July 2014.

Then-French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius on Jan. 29 proposed an international peace conference but stepped down from his post soon thereafter.

Abbas said the Palestinian Authority supports the international conference proposed by France.

“We’d like to solve the conflict through such a mechanism and by cooperating with the neighboring countries,” he said.

An official at Japan’s Foreign Ministry said it would be hard to clarify potential involvement in Fabius’ proposed conference, as there is currently little available information about it.

This is the fourth visit to Japan for the Palestinian leader, who became president in January 2015. Earlier on Monday, he met with Emperor Akihito for the first time.