Japan pledges to support Mideast peace through Palestine development

Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida on Thursday expressed Japan's continued commitment to supporting Middle East peace efforts as momentum builds for Israel and Palestine to restart their stalled peace talks.

"There was great significance in holding a (four-party ministerial) meeting amid signs of progress in the Mideast peace process," Kishida said at a joint news conference after a meeting in Jericho with ministers from Israel, Palestine and Jordan to discuss Palestinian economic development.

Kishida chaired the meeting at which Israel was represented by Regional Cooperation Minister Silvan Shalom, Palestine by Mohammad Abu Ramadan, minister of state for planning affairs, and Jordan by Minister of Interior Hussein Hazza Al-Majali.

The meeting came after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry's shuttle diplomacy in the region over the past few weeks. Kerry said last week that the Israelis and Palestinians had laid the groundwork for resuming peace talks.

At the same press conference in Jericho, Shalom said that Israeli and Palestinian officials may hold talks in Washington as early as Tuesday to work toward an agreement on reviving the stalled peace process.

Japan, which has good ties with both Israel and Palestine, had been keen to use the meeting to support the peace process through measures to boost the economic development of Palestine.

The meeting was the fourth of its kind, the previous one being held in Tokyo in July 2008.

In a chairman's summary released afterward, the participants said they had confirmed their commitment to the Japan-led initiative known as the "Corridor for Peace and Prosperity" which contributes to the "development of a sustainable and viable Palestinian economy."

They also noted the progress made on the Jericho Agricultural Industrial Park, the initiative's flagship project, and voiced hope the project will secure "future investment" from other countries and areas.

In connection with helping the Palestinians, Kishida pledged to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah on Wednesday evening that Japan will provide 800 million yen in grant aid to the Palestinian Authority to help infrastructure development in the Palestinian territories.