Foreign Minister Taro Kono expressed gratitude to his Turkish counterpart, Mevlut Cavusoglu, for Ankara’s efforts in securing the release last month of journalist Jumpei Yasuda from a militant group in Syria.
During a joint appearance with Cavusoglu in Tokyo on Monday, Kono said Turkey is an important strategic partner as Japan steps up its engagement in the Middle East. They agreed to enhance bilateral economic relations with an eye on a free trade accord.
“I’d like to express my gratitude again to President (Recep Tayyip) Erdogan, Foreign Minister Cavusoglu and Turkish government officials for their assistance with regards to the recent release” of Yasuda, Kono said.
Following his entry into Syria to cover the civil war, Yasuda was held hostage by a warring faction that later demanded a ransom for his release. Yasuda spent over three years in captivity until he was freed last month.
After confirming Oct. 24 that the man freed and under protection in the southern Turkish city of Antakya was Yasuda, Japan expressed its appreciation to Turkey and Qatar for their support in securing Yasuda’s release.
“As Japan steps up engagement in the Middle East, Turkey, which plays a critical role there, is an extremely important partner,” Kono said.
The two ministers exchanged views on a range of issues, including the efforts to secure stability in Syria as well as North Korea’s denuclearization.
“Turkey welcomes Japan’s increasing efforts toward proactively solving issues in a peaceful manner, not only in the region around Japan but also in the Middle East,” Cavusoglu said.
He expressed hope for deeper economic ties between Turkey and Japan as a result of the ongoing negotiations for a free trade agreement.
Turkey serves as a production hub for Japanese carmakers and other manufacturers for products destined for Europe.