Yutuka Iimura, Japan's new Middle East peace envoy, called on President Shimon Peres Thursday, having come to the region to meet with leaders and to accelerate Japan's newest project in Jericho. Having already completed several projects in Jericho, Japan sees them as part of its commitment to the peace process, he said. In his meeting with Peres, Iimura affirmed that Japan would continue to push for peace in the Middle East. Iimura's visit with the president coincided with the 64th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In 1947 in response to the bombing, Japan added Article 9 to its Constitution, declaring its aspirations for an international peace based on justice and order. The Japanese people also renounced war as the sovereign right of a nation and the threat to use force as a means of settling international disputes. Iimura, who took over from his predecessor Tatsuo Arima last month, is on a two-week trip to the region. He has already been to Egypt, and plans to visit the Palestinian Authority, Jordan and Syria. Relations between Israel and Japan are developing rapidly, not only politically but in the fields of economics and scientific cooperation, he said. He added that Japan believed in the two-state solution and hoped that negotiations based on the road map would resume as quickly as possible. Japan, which has already contributed extensively to the regional development of Jericho, is eager to begin construction on its next project and is looking forward to cooperation from both Israel and the Palestinians, said Iimura. In welcoming Iimura, Peres praised Japan's role in the Middle East peace process and said that most people were not aware that since 1993, Japan had invested more than $1 billion in humanitarian and economic aid in Palestinian projects. Japan played a pioneering role in building up the Palestinian economy, said Peres. Since Israel's relaxation of strictures in the West Bank, Peres added, the Palestinian economy has continued to grow, and the forecast for the growth rate this year is 7 percent. Some 1,200 foreign companies have invested in the Palestinian economy, he noted, stressing that "Israel made a major effort to enable the growth of the economy by dismantling numerous checkpoints and allowing a freer flow of people, merchandise and ideas." "It's an economic peace," said Peres, but clarified that economic peace was no substitute for political peace. To achieve that may take a lot of time, he told Iimura. Nonetheless, Peres saw the cup as half-full and compared "the darkness of Gaza with the light of Ramallah," adding that "no one forces the Gazans to live in darkness. Their situation could be the same as the West Bank." The Palestinians are now dealing with their own future, he went on, referring to the Fatah conference taking place in Bethlehem. "It would be wise for them to keep their obligations and promises," Peres stated. "If you don't respect the agreements of yesterday, how can you reach agreements tomorrow?"