• Kyodo, Reuters


Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan agreed Monday to secure a stable oil supply to Japan and closely cooperate to help reduce tensions in the Middle East.

During the talks in Abu Dhabi, Abe briefed the crown prince on Japan’s deployment of a destroyer and reconnaissance planes to the Middle East, excluding the Persian Gulf, to safeguard commercial shipping, Japanese officials said.

The crown prince hailed Tokyo’s role in ensuring maritime safety and pledged to offer cooperation as a country in the region.

A Japanese Foreign Ministry official said Japan’s strong relationship with both the United States and Iran enabled it to play a diplomatic role in defusing heightened regional tensions following the U.S. killing of Iranian military commander Gen. Qassem Soleimani and a retaliatory missile attack by Iran on U.S. forces in Iraq.

As part of a Middle Eastern tour, Abe met United Arab Emirates leaders in Abu Dhabi on Monday after having been to Saudi Arabia on Sunday. He then traveled to Oman on Tuesday, whose ruler, Sultan Qaboos, died Friday.

Abe will “compare notes with the leaders of the three countries who we believe are like-minded in the sense that they are all worried about the extremely high tension in the region and the need for… de-escalation,” the official said.

He added that Abe met Iranian President Hassan Rouhani three times last year and maintains “very good contact” with U.S. President Donald Trump.

Abu Dhabi’s crown prince thanked Abe for Japan’s “balanced policy” toward the Middle East in a statement on UAE state media after their meeting.

Sheikh Mohammed said the UAE was willing to work with Japan and Saudi Arabia for regional stability.

In turn, Abe said he appreciated the “discrete position” the UAE has been demonstrating in the current situation.

In May and June 2019, several attacks took place on international merchant vessels in the Gulf, including the Japanese-owned tanker Kokuka Courageous, which the United States blamed on Iran. Tehran denies the allegations.

The UAE did not lay blame on any country for those attacks or other attacks on Saudi Arabian energy infrastructure.

Located near the Strait of Hormuz, a critical sea lane, the UAE is the second-largest crude oil supplier to Japan, which relies on the Persian Gulf state for about a third of its imports. The series of attacks on tankers took place near the strait.

Abe expressed gratitude for the UAE’s efforts to provide a stable oil supply to Japan, and the crown prince replied that he will continue to put a great deal of consideration toward that end.

The UAE visit is part of Abe’s five-day trip to the Middle East aimed at stressing the importance of diplomatic efforts in de-escalating the situation in the region.

Abe visited Saudi Arabia for talks with King Salman bin Abdul-Aziz al-Saud Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Sunday, during which the prime minister expressed concern about the consequences of a military confrontation and sought Saudi Arabia’s help in stabilizing the region.

Under Japan’s own initiative, independent of a U.S.-led maritime security coalition, the Self-Defense Forces will be deployed on an intelligence-gathering mission to the Gulf of Oman, the northern part of the Arabian Sea, and the Bab el-Mandeb Strait connecting the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden.

Both Saudi Arabia and the UAE have joined the U.S. initiative.

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