Japanese Foreign Minister Yohei Kono has announced the launch of closer cooperation with the Gulf, notably in the water sector, and an initiative to improve understanding of Islam, Qatari newspapers reported Wednesday.
"I have a cooperation plan with the Gulf states to develop water resources due to the region's needs for drinking water," he said at a function in the Qatari capital late Tuesday. "This plan has already been launched with a pioneer project in Saudi Arabia, an experiment which Japan wants to extend to the other five" Gulf desert monarchies which rely heavily on desalination, he said, offering Japanese expertise.
He said resource-poor Japan did not want to restrict links with its leading oil suppliers to the energy sector alone. On the cultural front, Tokyo wants to keep a distance from "western prejudices" on Islam and has set up a committee for Islamic studies within the Japanese foreign ministry, said Kono, who started a Gulf tour on Tuesday.
"The United Nations has declared the current year as the year of dialogue between civilizations and I have been keen on undertaking this tour this year in order to work towards a more consolidated framework of relations with the Gulf countries," he said. "We look forward to exchange of visits among the intelligentsia, academics and specialists."
Kono, who is to travel on to the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, also underlined the importance of maintaining Gulf security "to the Japanese economy and the world."
Seventy percent of Qatar's exports of crude and natural gas goes to Japan. In 1999, trade between Japan and the six Gulf monarchies amounted to 32 billion dollars, according to Kono. — (AFP, Doha)
© Agence France Presse 2001
© 2001 Mena Report (www.menareport.com )