Japan Pledges $2.5b in Mideast Aid

Japan Pledges  $2.5b in  Mideast AidJapan Pledges  $2.5b in  Mideast Aid

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pledged Saturday $2.5 billion in humanitarian and development aid for the Middle East as he launched a regional tour that includes visits to Jordan and Israel.

In a speech in Cairo, Abe pledged $200 million in non-military assistance for countries affected by the Islamic State (IS) militant group’s bloody expansion in Iraq and Syria, which spurred an exodus of refugees to neighboring countries, AFP said in a report.

IS has seized large areas of Iraq and Syria, where it declared the creation of a caliphate last year. It controls several oil fields and refineries in the area. The oil supplies are thought to generate an estimated $2 million in daily revenue for the group.

“Japan will newly carry out assistance of $2.5 billion in non-military fields including humanitarian assistance and infrastructure development, intended for the entire region,” Abe said, according to an official transcript. Japan also provided $2.2 billion in assistance for the Middle East two years ago.

Speaking to Egyptian politicians and businessmen, he said Japan would “provide assistance for refugees and displaced persons from Iraq and Syria.”

“It goes without saying that the stability of the Middle East is the foundation for peace and prosperity for the world, and of course for Japan,” Abe said. “Should we leave terrorism or weapons of mass destruction to spread in this region, the loss imparted upon the international community would be immeasurable.”

IS’s brutal tactics - including mass killings and abductions of members of religious and ethnic minorities - have sparked outrage across the world and prompted a US-led military intervention.

Abe also pledged assistance of a total of about $200 million for those countries contending with the US, “to help build their human capacities, infrastructure, and so on.”

A Japanese foreign ministry official said that much of those funds would go towards assisting neighboring states hosting refugees. The money is included in the $2.5 billion figure, she said, which also includes loans to improve Egypt’s power grid.

  Alarming Figures

The United Nations has warned that the number of Syrian refugees could shoot up to 4.27 million by December from the current figure of more than three million.

The Syrian conflict has killed more than 200,000 people since March 2011 and displaced around half the country’s population, with many fleeing to neighboring Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan.

  Mideast Tour

Dozens of Japanese company executives are accompanying Abe on his trip. Since taking office in December 2012, Abe has worked to boost Japan’s profile in global affairs.

He has visited more than 50 countries including oil-rich nations in the Persian Gulf -- but not Japan’s neighbors China and South Korea, with which Tokyo is at odds over territory and history.

The last time a Japanese leader visited Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian territories was in 2006 when Junichiro Koizumi was in office. Abe was the last premier to visit Egypt during his brief first stint in the top job in 2007.

He said Japan had contributed $2.2 billion to the Middle East in 2012 which had “already been put into execution.”

Abe will meet Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi before departing to Jordan and then Israel and the Palestinian West Bank. His itinerary includes a visit to the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem.

The Japanese prime minister urged Israel and the Palestinians to resume negotiations, after the Palestinians joined the International Criminal Court this month to seek an investigation into the war in Gaza last year.