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Japan Envoy Raises Economic Development as Key to Middle East Peace

Security Council Meets on Situation in Middle East, Including Palestinian Question. UN Photo/Eskinker Debebe

The statement delivered by Japan’s Special Envoy for Middle East Peace Uemura Tsukasa at the Nov. 29 UN Security Council hearing on the Middle East crisis was notable for its identification of the critical role of economic development in securing lasting peace in the Southwest Asia.

Ambassador Uemura considers himself “an old friend of the region,” having been engaged in the Middle East for four decades, he reported. Despite its difficulties, this region still “holds great potential to realize `co-existence and co-prosperity,’” he insists. Japan’s consistent policy has been that true peace requires a two-state solution, which “can be achieved only through dialogue,” not violence. He specified the “three pillars” on which Japan bases its approach to a two-state solution: “political dialogue, confidence-building, and economic assistance to the Palestinian people.”

Uemura cited the agro-industrial park which Japan helped establish and supports in the West Bank’s Jordan Valley, near Jericho, and the Conference on Cooperation among East Asian Countries for Palestinian Development (CEPAD) which Japan initiated in 2013, as exemplary of Japan’s efforts to foster economic development.

The Jericho Agricultural Industrial Park to which Uemura pointed is the flagship project of the “Corridor for Peace and Prosperity” initiative launched during a 2006 visit to the region by then-Japanese Prime Minister Koizumi Junichiro. The initiative’s aim is to encourage cooperation between Israel and Palestine, Jordan, and other Arab countries. The “basic idea” of the initiative is described in a 2006 Background Paper on “Japan’s Concept for Creating the Corridor for Peace and Prosperity”:

“For achieving sustainable peace in the Middle East, it is essential for the peoples in the region to enjoy a peace dividend and for Arabs and Israelis to promote confidence among them, especially for Palestinians and Israelis…. [T]he two-state solution is the only way and it is important to make efforts towards co-existence and co-prosperity while at the same time, managing the current situation.”

Then-Foreign Minister Asō Taro added in a 2007 statement on the Corridor for Peace and Prosperity: “When this concept is realized, the problems of this region will be solved not by the military forces or the politics, but at least through economic development.”