Jordanian Prime Minister Ali Abu Ragheb flew to Tokyo on Sunday October 28 for talks with Japanese counterpart Junichiro Koizumi on economic issues and debt relief that he expected to be a "turning point" in ties.
"My current visit to Japan and the issues that will be discussed with the Japanese prime minister and key officials represent a turning point in the privileged relations between the two countries," Abu Ragheb told reporters.
"Our Japanese friends look upon the (Middle East) region with great importance because of their increased interests in the region," the prime minister said before embarking on the visit.
"Economic relations, Japan's technical aid to Jordan and Jordan's debt to Japan will top the agenda of talks," which will also include the violence in the Palestinian territories, Abu Ragheb said.
Japan is Jordan's largest financial donor and its main creditor. Abu Ragheb is expected to seek anew an easing of Amman's debt to Tokyo which stands at around $1.8 billion, or 20 percent of Jordan's overall foreign debt, officials here said. He will meet Koizumi on Tuesday following talks with senior officials Monday.
Jordan's King Abdullah II had similar talks in Tokyo during an official visit in December 1999 and secured a $400-million aid package from Japan. The aid over three years was aimed at helping Jordan pursue its economic reform and included a debt relief scheme involving deferment of principal and interest on credit worth around $150 million.
It also featured about $180 million worth of grants for such purposes as food aid, improvement of water supplies facilities in Amman and economic reform. Around $70 million in low-interest official loans were earmarked for a project to develop tourism.
Earlier this year Japan extended approximately $66 million as a non-project grant to support the Jordanian economy as part of the aid package. Over the past year Japan helped set up a Global Development Learning Network center at the University of Jordan as part of a drive by King Abdullah to bolster information technology in the kingdom. Tokyo provided the center with equipment worth $300,000.
In May, Japan's Sumitomo construction giant completed the construction of a new four-lane bridge between Jordan and the West Bank, replacing an old wood and steel structure, with an 8.2-million-dinar ($11.5 million) grant from Japan. — (AFP, Amman)
© Agence France Presse 2001
© 2001 Mena Report (www.menareport.com )