ABU DHABI (AFP) – Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe yesterday hailed cooperation with the United Arab Emirates as a “strategic relationship” on a visit aimed at boosting political and economic ties.
Mr Abe arrived in the oil-rich Gulf state late Sunday on the first leg of a Middle East tour which will also take him to Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian territories.
“Over the past five years since I last visited Abu Dhabi, our bilateral relations have made dramatic progress to a relationship that has been called a strategic relationship,” Mr Abe told a UAE-Japan business forum.
Top executives from Japan’s leading business groups addressed the forum, highlighting projects underway in UAE and future plans.
“On this visit, we are accompanied by 27 companies representing Japan with a delegation of top business leaders,” Mr Abe said.
The UAE is Japan’s main trading partner in the Middle East, accounting for about a third of Tokyo’s trade in the region.
It is also the second-largest oil supplier to Japan, accounting for almost a quarter of its crude oil needs last year, or 800,000 barrels per day, just after neighbouring Saudi Arabia.
Mr Abe praised the renewal of oil concession agreements by Abu Dhabi to Japanese oil companies saying “bilateral relations in the field of energy have been solidified”.
In February, Abu Dhabi’s state energy company ADNOC said it had awarded Japan’s INPEX a 10 percent stake in an offshore oil concession, in a deal worth $600 million.
The new concession, at the offshore Lower Zakum oil field, is for a duration of 40 years. ADNOC also said it had extended INPEX’s 40 percent stakes in Abu Dhabi’s Satah and Umm Al-Dalkh concessions for another 25 years.