Arens Wins Agreement from Japanese for Annual Bilateral Consultations

Israel and Japan will conduct annual bilateral discussions on international issues and projects of mutual interest, beginning in January.

Japanese leaders agreed to the discussions during a five-day official visit here by Israeli Foreign Minister Moshe Arens, which ended Saturday.

The trip was described as successful, even though Arens did not see eye to eye with his Japanese hosts on the Middle East peace process.

The plan to hold regular meetings, the first of which will take place in Tokyo, was announced Nov. 9, following Arens’ talks with Japanese Prime Minster Toshiki Kaifu and Foreign Minister Taro Nakyama.

The meetings, to be conducted by directors general of the respective foreign ministries, are designed “to strengthen dialogue about Middle East peace and other international affairs, and bilateral relations in the economic, cultural and scientific fields,” said Yasukuni Enoki, director of the Foreign Ministry’s first Middle East division.

Although Japan and Israel are at odds over inclusion of the Palestinian Liberation Organization in the peace process, both say they expect Japan’s role in the Middle East to increase.

LITTLE PROGRESS ON BOYCOTT

“It is not impossible to conceive that encouragement by the Japanese government” could move Arab nations toward peace with Israel, Arens said during a speech at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan last Friday.

Arens’ strong interest in promoting bilateral relations was underscored by his itinerary, which included visits to Keidanren, the powerful Federation of Economic Organizations, and to scientific institutes in Tsukaba.

But the foreign minister appeared to have little success in persuading Japan not to collude in the Arab boycott of Israel.

Fear of retaliation from Arab countries has prompted numerous Japanese companies to shun the Jewish state, although two-way trade jumped to $1.14 billion in 1988 from $385 million three years earlier. However, much of that rise was due to growing Japanese diamond imports, rather than broadened contacts.

The Japanese government has so far declined to repudiate the Arab boycott of Israel, saying instead it is up to individual companies to decide with whom to conduct business.

During his stay, the Israeli foreign minister paid visits on a number of Japanese political party leaders, as well as on the speakers of the lower and upper houses of the Diet, Japan’s parliament.

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