World News Saudi efforts on Gaza ‘in line’ with Japanese policy: Special envoy

DUBAI: Saudi efforts to de-escalate the Gaza conflict are “in line” with Japanese policy, UEMURA Tsukasa, Japan’s special envoy for Middle East peace, said on Tuesday.

“Aside from providing humanitarian assistance to Gaza, Saudi Arabia is doing a fairly good job politically, in line with (Japan’s) policy as well. In terms of humanitarian assistance, Saudi Arabia is doing the most efforts,” the former ambassador to the Kingdom, who visited the region to discuss the war, told Arab News Japan.

Since March 27, Uemura has visited Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the UAE in efforts to de-escalate the conflict by closely communicating with the countries and international organizations concerned.

In Saudi Arabia, he met with Dr. Saud bin Mohammed Al-Sati, undersecretary for political affairs, and Ahmed bin Ali Al-Baiz, assistant supervisor general for operations and programs at aid agency KSrelief.

Uemura explained that Japan was chair when the UN Security Council finally passed resolution 2728, which demands an immediate ceasefire in Gaza for the month of Ramadan, and the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages held by Hamas.

The resolution “was one of the major achievements in the Israel-Gaza war. Of course, the resolution is there but the reality isn’t. There’s very little change so far,” he said.

Since the Oct. 7 Hamas attack, Japan has advocated Israel’s right to self-defense. Nonetheless, “Japan’s policy is very sincere about the two-state solution and the Palestinian cause to self-determination,” Uemura added.

“There will be no peace if there are big gaps of social, economic or even political situations on both sides. Japan sees that and has worked hard on the Jericho Agro-Industrial Park.”

The JAIP aims to develop a fully functional and operational innovation center in the Palestinian city of Jericho to improve the competitiveness of businesses operating there.

Uemura said his government and NGOs have also offered many opportunities for youth from both Israel and Palestine to spend two weeks in Japan to get to know each other and overcome their differences.

“The core issue, however, is the lack of confidence between the two sides. Unfortunately, for the last six-month period the confidence has disappeared,” he added. “Our task now is to demand an urgent ceasefire, which would lead to a lasting ceasefire.”

However, to revive peace negotiations, Uemura said it will “take a very long time from now since we’re starting from zero, or even below zero, again.”

The demand by the International Court of Justice for Israel to comply with international law “should be very sincerely abided by,” he added. “This is Japan’s stance; we make it very clear.”

In January, Japan’s Foreign Minister KAMIKAWA Yoko said her country supported the ICJ ruling and said Israel must take measures to enable the provision of urgently needed basic services and humanitarian assistance in Gaza.

“Japan will persistently and actively continue its diplomatic efforts toward the immediate release of the hostages, the improvement of the humanitarian situation, and calming down the situation as soon as possible,” she added.

Uemura said Japan’s main focus is to end the violence and de-escalate tensions in Gaza and Israel, in order to move on to peace- and confidence-building measures.

According to Gaza’s Health Ministry, at least 32,845 Palestinians have been killed and 75,392 wounded in Israeli attacks on the enclave since Oct. 7. The death toll in Israel stands at 1,139, with some hostages still captive in Gaza.

* This article was originally published in Japanese on the Arab News Japan edition 

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