• Kyodo


The Japanese government regards Jordan and Turkey as key allies in its efforts to establish a negotiation channel for securing the release of two Japanese citizens held captive by the Islamic State militant group, which has threatened to execute the pair if a massive ransom isn’t paid, sources said Thursday.

In what Prime Minister Shinzo Abe described as a “race against time” to obtain the release of independent journalist Kenji Goto, 47, and Haruna Yukawa, a 42-year-old private security contractor, whom the extremists are threatening to kill, Tokyo is seeking information from Middle Eastern governments.

Jordan, where Japan has set up a local headquarters for the negotiations, and Turkey, which has experience in winning the release of hostages from the Islamic State group, are expected to provide helpful assistance to Japan, the sources said.

While Abe instructed the government to take advantage of “every diplomatic channel” in a ministerial meeting Wednesday, the government is still struggling to establish communication with the extremists, the sources said.

Currently, the government is seeking ways to negotiate with the extremists by communicating through tribal leaders in Syria or local Muslim leaders on referrals or information by third-party countries.

As the Islamic State members include local tribes in Syria and Iraq, as well as Sunni residents, Tokyo thinks influential individuals in the region may have a good chance to open negotiation channels with the group, according to the sources.

Jordanian King Abdullah, in Sunday’s meeting with visiting Abe before the hostage crisis surfaced, told the prime minister he was ready to extend help should Japan need it.

The Turkish government in September announced it successfully gained the release of 49 nationals who had been kidnapped in June by the Islamic State group from a consulate general in the northern Iraq city of Mosul.

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