DUBAI: Japan’s former prime minister, Abe Shinzo, died on July 8 after being shot during an election speech in Nara prefecture.
Abe, 67, was the longest-serving prime minister in Japan’s history. He held office in 2006 for one year and again from 2012 to 2020. Abe was Japan’s youngest prime minister since World War II when he first took office.
Throughout his time in office, Abe was known for his foreign policy efforts, particularly with the Arab world. He played an important role in strengthening cooperation and good relations between the Middle East and Japan.
In 2020, Abe toured the Arab world, visiting Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Oman.
In January that year, Abe arrived in Saudi Arabia and met Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to discuss bilateral relations between the two countries.
Abe received full support from the crown prince for the MSDF mission, aimed at gathering information to ensure safe navigation for ships related to Japan in the region.
Two P-3C patrol planes from the MSDF set out on their mission in January and the MSDF’s Takanami destroyer left for the Middle East on Feb. 2, 2020.
The two leaders agreed to maintain efforts that would ensure stability and peace in the region.
During Abe’s trip, his tour of AlUla cast a spotlight on the ancient Nabataean site. It was his last stop before continuing to the UAE and Oman.
Abe also met Saudi’s King Salman in Riyadh and the two confirmed their cooperation for the success of the Group of 20 meetings to be hosted by Saudi Arabia. In their 40-minute talk, the king expressed the expectation that his country and Japan would deepen their strategic partnership in various fields, not only in the area of energy.
In the UAE, Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, crown prince of Abu Dhabi and deputy supreme commander of the UAE armed forces, received Abe and they discussed efforts to boost diplomatic ties to ease tensions in the region.
The two also witnessed the signing of the UAE-Japan strategic energy cooperation agreement with the Abu Dhabi Supreme Petroleum Council.
The agreement was represented by Abu Dhabi National Oil Company and the Agency for Natural Resources and Energy of Japan, for the storage of more than 8 million barrels of crude oil at facilities in Japan, WAM reported.
The last leg of Abe’s Arab tour was in Oman, where he met Haitham bin Tareq, who took office following the death of long-serving Sultan Qaboos.
Abe offered his condolences on the death of the sultan. The two men agreed to cooperate in regional stability and develop bilateral relations, a Japanese foreign ministry statement said.
In 2015, Abe visited Egypt, Jordan, Israel and Palestine to reaffirm the friendly relationship with countries in the Middle East.
Abe encouraged peace between Israel and Palestine, indispensable for the stability of the region.
In Jordan, Abe vowed to support the country that was on the frontline of efforts to counter Daesh.
Japan and Jordan have enjoyed a close relationship based on the ties between the imperial family and the royal family.
Jordan’s King Abdullah II and Abe reaffirmed that the strategic relationship between the two countries would be developed further, and they would continue to cooperate on promoting peace and stability.
Abe expressed concern about the chain of violence and mistrust in Israel and Palestine, and requested that actions likely to escalate the conflict be avoided.
He asked for a review of the suspension of the return of tax revenues to the Palestinian Authority being implemented by Israel, and also requested a halt to settlement activities that violate international law.
In his meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in 2015, Abe conveyed his intention to strengthen Japan’s commitment and support for Palestine’s nation-building efforts, including assistance of $100 million to achieve a two-state solution.
Abe requested Palestine, which was undertaking diplomatic measures at the UN and international organizations, to refrain from any actions that undermined efforts for the resumption of negotiations for the Middle East peace process.
The term Abenomics was coined in 2012 after Abe implemented policies to take Japan’s economy out of deflation. When Abe assumed office in 2012, the country was still recovering from the 2008/09 recession.
He also played an important role in winning the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Abe submitted his unexpected resignation in late August of 2020, citing a chronic illness.
He was known for his personal relations with foreign leaders around the world and his strong ties with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and other Arab leaders.