NEW YORK – Prime Minister Shinzo Abe met with French President Francois Hollande on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly, where the two leaders discussed efforts to combat the Islamic State and how best to deal with Russia’s activities in Ukraine.
“It is important to put pressure on Russia with sanctions and also to make an approach through dialogue and engagement,” Abe was quoted by a Japanese government official as saying during the meeting on Wednesday in New York.
Japan announced a new round of sanctions on Russia on the same day in Tokyo, following the lead of the United States and the European Union, for Moscow’s role in the Ukraine conflict.
Hollande welcomed Japan’s latest sanctions, said Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroshige Seko, who briefed reporters on their talks.
The sanctions include restrictions on exporting weapons and other items for military use to Russia, and a ban on five Russian banks from issuing securities in the Japan.
Tokyo is trying to walk a fine line with Russia, coordinating sanctions over Ukraine with its Group of Seven partners, but holding out hope for a discussion of bilateral issues with the Kremlin, most notably on the territorial dispute over four Russian-held, Japanese-claimed islands off Hokkaido.
Abe is exploring a chance to hold talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting in Beijing in November. The two leaders have met five times since Abe returned as prime minister in December 2012.
Abe and Hollande also reaffirmed their cooperation against the Islamic State, the official said.
Abe expressed support for the fight against terrorism by countries such as the United States and France amid the growing threat posed by the extremist group in the Middle East.
Abe called the Islamic State a serious threat to the international community, while Hollande expressed concern that the group will expand further if the international community fails to contain it, according to Seko.
The United States and its Arab allies launched airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria earlier this week.
Abe also informed Hollande that Japan has pledged a total of $25.5 million to help refugees in Iraq and in neighboring countries, in addition to the $7.8 million it had pledged previously.
Later on Wednesday, Abe said in his meeting with African leaders that Japan will continue to help with infrastructure building in the region.
“Japan will walk alongside you on the long road ahead,” be said in his address to the second Japan-African RECs summit. “We will hold close policy dialogues with you while working intently to develop Africa’s infrastructure.”
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