ABU DHABI/MANAMA – Foreign Minister Taro Kono sought cooperation from his counterpart in the United Arab Emirates on Sunday to renew oil field contracts held by Japanese firms.
During a meeting in Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the UAE’s foreign minister, responded that the UAE attaches importance to relations with Japan.
About 60 percent of the oil rights owned by Japanese companies in offshore oil fields near Abu Dhabi are set to expire next March, and Tokyo hopes they will be extended as the UAE is its second-largest oil supplier after Saudi Arabia.
“I said that Japanese companies want to continue to (hold the rights), and they responded that they will give due consideration to the historically good relations with Japan, and that they welcome Japan,” Kono told reporters after meeting both the foreign minister and Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan.
Kono has been in the Middle East since Saturday. He has attended a security meeting in Bahrain and exchanged views with UAE officials on regional issues including the situations in North Korea, China, Qatar, Iraq and Yemen, as well as the recent U.S. decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
On Jerusalem, Kono said he thinks the UAE is “reacting calmly” to the U.S. move and sharing its view that the United States must be involved in efforts to create peace between the Israelis and Palestinians.
Kono refrained from revealing the details of their “rather frank” discussion about Qatar, with which the UAE and several others in the region cut diplomatic ties earlier this year, but said it “would not be good for Japan” for the issue to drag on.
The rift revolves around allegations that Qatar supports terrorism and is too close to Iran, though the tiny, gas-rich emirate denies the charge.
Kono’s visit to the UAE is his first since becoming foreign minister in August. He is set to leave for Paris on Monday, where he will speak at a climate change summit on Tuesday.
On Saturday in Bahrain, the first stop of his trip to the Middle East and Europe, Kono said Japan can do more to help push forward the Israel-Palestine peace talks as the country seeks to play a bigger role in promoting peace in the Middle East.
“Japan can make more contributions for the stability of the Middle East,” Kono said in a speech to a security forum. He he did not elaborate on what the contributions will be.
Kono, the first Japanese foreign minister to ever visit Bahrain, met earlier in the day with his counterpart, Khalid bin Ahmed al-Khalifa, and exchanged views on unrest in Jerusalem and the Palestinian territories following U.S. President Donald Trump’s recent decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, Japanese officials said.
Among other Group of Seven nations, Britain, France, Italy and Germany expressed disagreement with or concern about the U.S. decision, but Kono has said Japan, a U.S. ally, “appreciates President Trump’s strong commitment to promoting a permanent peace agreement and his support for a two-state solution.”
As for the Iraqi military’s declaration of an end to the fight against the Islamic State extremist group, Kono said in a statement issued Sunday the country’s liberation from it is an achievement made possible by the Iraqi people’s unity to overcome ethnic and religious differences.
“Japan wants to support as much as possible the Iraqi people’s efforts to peacefully resolve various domestic issues, based on the (Japanese) Constitution and constructive dialogues, and to prevent a revival of violent extremism,” he said.