Japanese Envoys Urge Role in Mideast

Fourteen Japanese ambassadors assigned to Middle Eastern countries and two former ambassadors to that region contended at a conference here last week that a peaceful settlement of the Arab-Israeli dispute could not be achieved by the concerned parties alone. They stressed that Japan should cooperate to assist mediation efforts by the U.S. and the Soviet Union. Foreign Ministry sources disclosed here.

According to reports in the Japan Times and the Asahi Evening News, the envoys unanimously endorsed Japan’s “neutral attitude” in the Middle East conflict and said it should continue “particularly in view of the recent trend of using oil as a political weapon.” They agreed that Japan could not help but continue to endorse Security Council Resolution 242 “from the viewpoint of opposing expansion of territory by military force,” according to the newspapers.

The participants in the meeting, which was opened by Foreign Minister Masayoshi Ohira, included the ambassadors to Afghanistan, Algeria, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Kuwait, Lebanon. Morocco. Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia and Turkey, and the director general of the Foreign Ministry’s Middle Eastern and African Affairs bureau.

PLANS TO AID MIDEAST NATIONS

The conference was held at the Foreign Ministry “to review and assess the political and economic situations in the Middle East.” The envoys agreed that the oil-producing countries in that region “have the positive intention of selling oil so that they may utilize the ample foreign currency thus obtained in their own economic development.” Ambassadors assigned to non-oil producing countries in the region stressed that Japan’s one-sided trade with those countries should be corrected, according to Ministry sources.

The sources said the government plans to increase official development aid to the Middle East nations only if it serves to help the economic and social development of those countries. Some envoys said that newspaper reports of increased tension in the region because of U.S. and Soviet arms sales there were exaggerated.

(The semi-official Egyptian newspaper Al Ahram, commenting on the Tokyo meeting, criticized Japan for not playing a greater role in the Middle East and not taking a stand in the Arab-Israeli dispute. The newspaper claimed that Japan’s main interest in the region was based on economic consideration and its supply of oil, 86 percent of which came from Arab countries.)

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