Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Wednesday held talks with Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel, president-elect of the European Council.

The European Union is “an important partner that shares universal values” with Japan, Abe told Michel, who is set to become president of the council, a key decision-making body of the EU, in December.

Tokyo hopes to work closely with the EU to develop their relations further, Abe also said.

In reply, Michel expressed a wish to further deepen two-way cooperation.

Abe asked for cooperation on the early removal of import restrictions on Japanese food products.

He also sought support for efforts to resolve the issue of North Korea’s abductions of Japanese nationals decades ago. Michel showed understanding, according to Japanese officials.

Abe, on a trip to New York for the U.N. General Assembly, also met with Nobel laureate Nadia Murad on Tuesday.

Murad, who won the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize, is a human rights activist who drew attention to the use of sexual violence by the Islamic State group against members of the Yazidi minority in Iraq.

Abe told Murad that Japan will continue to work on efforts to prevent rape during conflicts and support female victims.

He also said his country will actively provide aid for reconstruction in areas freed from Islamic State control.

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