Japan to renew direct aid to PA

Matsuda: $20-million will be given in eight payments to support the PA and provide humanitarian relief to Gazans.

japanese fm aso 88 (photo credit: AP)
japanese fm aso 88
(photo credit: AP)
Japan will resume direct aid to the moderate Palestinian government, after shunning its Hamas-led predecessor for more than a year, Japanese Deputy Ambassador Kuninori Matsuda announced on Monday. Matsuda said the $20-million Japanese aid package would be dispersed in eight payments to support the Palestinian government and provide humanitarian relief to the residents of the Gaza Strip. Japan has avoided providing direct aid to the Palestinians since Hamas took power in March 2006. Japan's Foreign Minister Taro Aso is to officially inform the Palestinians of the aid package when he meets on Wednesday in Jericho with his Palestinian, Israeli and Jordanian counterparts. Aso was accorded a royal welcome at Beit Hanassi in Jerusalem on Monday where he met President Shimon Peres. Aso, on his first visit to Israel, arrived bearing a $100-million gift to be invested in industrial parks in a peace valley between Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority. Peres presented the idea to the Japanese during his visit to Tokyo last march. They were enamored with the idea, and sent a study group to the region. The study group concluded that it was feasible, and saw it as a vehicle for promoting regional cooperation, creating employment opportunities and paving the way for economic growth. Aso said he was in Israel to confirm that the project was progressing. "I hope steps can be implemented one by one," he said, "and that the project will bring peace and prosperity to the region. This is a vital issue not just for Israel and the Palestinians, but also for Japan." In response, Peres said: "All of us appreciate your well thought-out contribution. You came with an important plan to develop a certain part of the neighborhood between us and Jordan and the Palestinian Authority. What you're doing is the first important step towards a Valley of Peace." Peres greeted Aso joyfully, and the two men happily turned this way and that at the request of a phalanx of photographers, so that everyone could get exactly what he wanted in his frame. "These are all Japanese cameras," quipped Peres.