Israel, Palestinians laud Japanese plan

Peres, Erekat hail economic program as step toward reviving ME peace process.

March 14, 2007 12:01
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Senior Israeli and Palestinian officials applauded a Japanese plan to promote economic cooperation and development in their region Wednesday, calling the proposal a step toward rejuvenating the Middle East peace process. Vice Premier Shimon Peres and Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat were in Tokyo to talk about details of Japan's proposed "Corridor for Peace and Prosperity," an economic revival plan aimed at boosting the local economy. Also attending was Farouk Kasrawi, special adviser to Jordan's King Abdullah II. "I think Japan has taken us to the future with their vision," said Erekat. "This is an incentive of how things would look if Palestinians and Israelis would reach peace." Under the plan, Japan will work with Israelis, Palestinians and Jordanians to promote joint projects such as an agroindustrial park in the West Bank and facilitate the transportation of goods in the region. "Jordanians, Palestinians and Israelis, we shall work together. This is the first time in the Middle East that such an economic cooperation takes place," Peres said. All three attendees invited Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to visit the region. Later Wednesday, Foreign Minister Taro Aso was to hold a confidence-building meeting between the three leaders, aimed at improving trust and cooperation. Japan, which has friendly ties with many Arab countries, has twice before hosted confidence building conferences between Israelis and Palestinians, in 2003 and 2004.

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