TOKYO – Japan is concerned about the humanitarian situation in Gaza and the ongoing Israeli construction in settlements and in east Jerusalem, Japanese Foreign Minister Masahiko Koumura told Prime Minister Ehud Olmert during their meeting in Tokyo Wednesday.
Olmert stressed before the foreign minister that Hamas was responsible for the situation. "It's unacceptable that on the Israeli side, an eight-year-old boy will lose his leg and a ten-year-old boy will nearly lose his arm, while the other side remains unharmed. Hamas must bear responsibility for the situation," he stated.
Responding to Koumura's criticism regarding construction in the West Bank, the prime minister said, "I will not halt the negotiations whenever a Qassam is fired at Israel, and they shouldn't stop the talks whenever they have complaints about construction."
However, Olmert also stressed he planned to stand by his commitments to US President George W. Bush not to build new settlements or seize Palestinian land. "The important thing at the moment is to preserve the momentum of the diplomatic process and the mutual need to maintain it, regardless of claims about violations (of commitments)."
'Economy drives peace process'
The Japanese foreign minister said Japan intended to continue supporting the peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians. Since the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993, Japan has donated some $900 million to the Palestinians, and pledged to give another $150 million during a recent conference of donor countries in Paris.
Most of the funds will go towards the development of an airport and an agricultural industrial area near Jericho.
"Economy should certainly be the motor driving the diplomatic process," Olmert told Koumura.
Earlier Wednesday, Olmert convened with the Japanese Emperor, Akihito. The two discussed the issue of international sanctions against Iran, and Olmert urged Japan to continue supporting measures against the country, saying it constituted a threat to the Middle East.