Japanese Foreign Minister Yohei Kono held talks in Qatar on Tuesday at the start of a Gulf Arab tour aimed at boosting links with the leading oil suppliers of resource-poor Japan. Kono's visit to Doha was to last two days, Qatar's news agency QNA reported, before he travels on to the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.
The Japanese minister held a working meeting with Qatar's minister of state for foreign affairs, Ahmad Bin Abdullah Al-Mahmoud, focused on energy cooperation, QNA said. Kono said his mission was to reinforce ties with Qatar, 70 percent of whose exports of crude and natural gas go to Japan, in a statement to the Qatari newspaper Al-Raya .
In 1999, trade between Japan and the six Gulf Arab monarchies amounted to $32 billion, he said. Kono added that "a settlement of the Iraq question" was essential to maintain security in the oil-rich Gulf, calling for Baghdad to implement UN Security Council resolutions and resume dialogue with the world body.
Voicing concern over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he said Japan had sent $4.3 million in aid to the Palestinians since the clashes broke out in late September. "I want to discuss with leading figures in each (Gulf) country ways of strengthening the relationship between Japan and the Gulf in the 21st century," he said in Japan when the tour was announced last month.
Saudi Arabia in February refused to renew a 40-year-old Japanese oil concession after Tokyo declined to fund a two-billion-dollar railway in the kingdom. But Japan's Arabian Oil Co. remains in a Saudi-Kuwaiti neutral zone representing Kuwait's drilling interest, under a separate contract, which expires in January 2003. — (AFP, Riyadh)
© Agence France Presse 2001
© 2001 Mena Report (www.menareport.com )