Abe looking for oil on Middle East trip

RIYADH (Kyodo) The Saudi Arabian capital welcomed Prime Minister Shinzo Abe arrived on Saturday, where he began a five-nation tour of the Middle East. He is here to discuss cooperation over securing stability of energy supplies for Japan,security issues such as Iraq and Iran and the region’s peace process.

Abe attended a banquet hosted by Crown Prince  Sultan bin Abdul Aziz soon after arriving in the capital of Riyadh . His planned schedule also included an address at an economics seminar and hold talks with King Abdullah.

The trip to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar and Egypt is Abe’s first visit to the oil-rich Middle East since assuming office in September. It will also be the first visit to Kuwait by a Japanese prime minister.

The Japanese prime minister is flying to the Middle East directly from his first trip to the United States, where he took part in a summit with President George W. Bush. Abe is hoping to go beyond Japan’s economic interests to build a critical relationship with the Middle East dealing with regional peace and stability.

During his eight-day trip, Abe will also visit the Ali Al Salem Air Base in Kuwait, which is currently home to some 200 Air Self-Defense Force personnel.

The day before he left Tokyo, Abe said that his aim for this trip was to “engage in frank dialogue with the respective leaders in the Middle East to build the foundation for mutual trust in order to contribute to the region’s peace and stability.”

He is also expected to concrete Japan’s commitment to concluding a free-trade contract with the Gulf Cooperation Council to secure a stable oil supply, officials said.

The Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain and Oman make up the  six Middle Eastern oil producers comprising the GCC.  Due to his tight schedule, Abe was unable to visit all six this trip, a government official said.

To read full article, visit The Japan Times Online.

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