Japan will host a meeting of officials from the West Bank and Gaza, Israel and Jordan in Tokyo next month, Foreign Minister Taro Aso said Wednesday as he pledged to deepen Japan's engagement with the Middle East. "It is my firm belief that the Middle East region as a whole stands at a crossroads of great consequence," Aso said during a speech hosted by the Middle East Research Institute of Japan. He said it was his "determination to deepen our engagement with the Middle East region with regard to not only economic but also political dimensions." Japan and the Middle East countries should increase the frequency of mutual visits by high-level and senior officials, Aso said. Representatives from the Palestinian Authority, Israel and Jordan will gather in mid-March to discuss ways to bring peace and prosperity to the region, the foreign minister said, without giving other details. Officials are making arrangements for a ministerial-level meeting on March 14, according to Foreign Ministry officials. On Iraq, Aso reiterated Japan's commitment to the country. "If we were now to retreat out of fear, what purpose would our many efforts there have served?" he said. Japan sent ground troops to southern Iraq on a humanitarian mission after the March 2003 US-led invasion. The contingent was withdrawn last year, but Japan still operates airlifting in the region in support of US-led forces.