Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe yesterday pledged US$2.5 billion in humanitarian and developmental aid for the Middle East as he launched a regional tour that is to include visits to Jordan and Israel.
In a speech in Cairo, Abe pledged US$200 million in non-military assistance for nations affected by the bloody expansion in Iraq and Syria by the group formerly known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), which has spurred an exodus of cross-border refugees.
“Japan will newly carry out assistance of US$2.5 billion in non-military fields, including humanitarian assistance and infrastructure development, intended for the entire region,” Abe said, according to an official transcript.
Speaking to Egyptian politicians and businessmen, he said that Japan would “provide assistance for refugees and displaced persons from Iraq and Syria.”
“I will pledge assistance of a total of about US$200 million for those countries contending with ISIL, to help build their human capacities, infrastructure and so on,” he added.
A Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs official told reporters that much of those funds would go toward assisting neighboring states hosting refugees.
The money is included in the US$2.5 billion figure, the official said, which also includes loans to improve Egypt’s power grid.
The Syrian conflict has killed more than 200,000 people since March 2011 and displaced about half of the nation’s population, with many fleeing to Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan.
Dozens of Japanese executives are accompanying Abe on his trip.
Since taking office in December 2012, Abe has worked to boost Japan’s profile in global affairs. He has visited more than 50 nations, including oil-rich Persian Gulf nations — but not Japan’s neighbors Taiwan, China and South Korea, with which Tokyo is at odds over territory and history.
The last time a Japanese leader visited Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian territories was in 2006, when former Japanese prime minister Junichiro Koizumi was in office.
Abe was to meet Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi before departing for Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian West Bank.