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Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Takeo Hiranuma will visit four Middle East countries in July to promote cooperation in the energy sector and assist Japanese companies operating in the oil industry in the region, it was announced Friday.

His destinations will include Iran, the first visit to the Islamic state by a Japanese trade minister in 22 years.

Hiranuma will also visit Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates between July 3 and 10.

Hiranuma’s visit to Iran is to support negotiations between a Japanese consortium led by Indonesia Petroleum and the Iranian government to develop the Azadegan oil field in southwest Iran, a ministry official said.

In November, Iran agreed to grant Japanese companies preferential negotiating rights in developing the Azadegan oil field, which is believed to be one of the largest oil fields in the region.

During his visit to Saudi Arabia, Hiranuma will aim to improve the relationship between the two countries, damaged last year when a Japanese oil company lost drilling concessions.

to the Saudi Arabia-controlled portion of the Khafji oil field.

Hiranuma will also express support for Saudi Arabia’s efforts to create jobs for its younger generation by promoting foreign investment and the transfer of technology to the world’s largest oil-producing country, the official said.

In Kuwait, Hiranuma will work to promote progress in negotiations between Kuwait and Arabian Oil over operations in the Kuwait-controlled portion of the Khafji oil field, the official said.

In the UAE, Hiranuma is scheduled to discuss the importance of dialogue between oil-producing and oil-consuming countries as Japan and the UAE are to jointly host an international energy forum next year, according to the official.

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