National / Politics

Japan and Qatar agree to launch strategic ministerial talks

Kyodo

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani met Tuesday and agreed on the launch of a “strategic dialogue” under which their foreign ministers will regularly discuss a range of topics as part of efforts to lift bilateral ties to a higher level.

It is the third such agreement Japan has with a Middle East nation, having previously forged similar ties with Egypt and Jordan.

During the meeting in Tokyo, their eighth overall, Abe and Tamim also agreed to support activities of private companies in the energy sector to ensure a stable supply of liquefied natural gas from Qatar.

“Qatar is the most reliable LNG supplier to Japan,” Abe said.

Noting that Japan will host the Olympics and Paralympics in 2020 and Qatar will host the FIFA World Cup in 2022, the emir said, “Through those big events, I want to strengthen the bilateral ties further.”

Among regional issues, the two leaders discussed Qatar’s severance of diplomatic ties with Saudi Arabia and other Arab nations since June 2017, according to a Japanese official.

Abe told Tamim that it is important to settle the issue through dialogue, the official said.

Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates cut diplomatic relations with Qatar as a result of the emirate’s alleged support for Islamist terrorist and extremist groups, although Doha has denied the accusations.

Abe also expressed Tokyo’s gratitude for Doha’s role in last October’s release of Japanese freelance journalist Jumpei Yasuda, who was held captive in Syria for more than three years by a warring faction after entering the country to cover the civil war.

Tamim said he was “pleased” that Yasuda was reunited with his family as a result of his country’s contribution. Qatar is believed to have influence on Syrian rebel groups.