Japan, 50 African countries agree to jointly combat piracy


Japan and around 50 African countries agreed during a two-day ministerial meeting through Sunday in Morocco to cooperate to counter piracy.

A joint statement adopted by Foreign Minister Koichiro Genba and his African counterparts at the Marrakesh meeting to follow up on the Tokyo International Conference on African Development, last held in 2008, also said the next TICAD session slated for June 2013 in Yokohama will focus on efforts to accelerate economic growth in Africa.

The ministers said in the statement that African development hinges on the establishment of peace and enhanced governance capacity, and the international community should support the region’s efforts to achieve those goals.

The participants welcomed Japan’s initiative to host an international ministerial conference to discuss how to respond to large-scale natural disasters. The meeting will be held in July in the three Tohoku region prefectures hard hit by the devastating earthquake and tsunami in March last year.

The African ministers also expressed gratitude for Japanese official development assistance. At the previous TICAD in Yokohama, Tokyo vowed to double its Africa-bound ODA to $1.8 billion a year by 2012.

Two islands first


Foreign Minister Koichiro Genba indicated over the weekend that Tokyo and Moscow could first negotiate over the return to Japan of two of the Russian-held islands off Hokkaido to achieve progress in the long-standing territorial dispute.

Speaking to reporters Saturday in Morocco about the two countries’ 2001 statement confirming the validity of an earlier bilateral declaration that stipulated the return of the two islands, Genba said the statement was in line with Japan’s position that all four islands belong to it and “does not contradict” that stance.