GCC, Japan sign strategic deals amid rising Iran tensions

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Deputy Foreign Minister Prince Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah, center, signs the accord with Japanese Foreign Minister Koichiro Genba in Riyadh on Saturday. Photo - SPA

Gulf Cooperation Council nations and Japan have signed a memorandum of co-operation for strategic partnership touting it as a new page in friendship. The understanding comes at a time oil markets are panicking due to the renewed sanctions on Iran.

The agreement was signed by Japanese Foreign Minister Koichiro Genba, Saudi Deputy Foreign Minister, Prince Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah and GCC Secretary General Abdullatif Al Zayani. The Japanese foreign minister is visiting Saudi Arabia for the first time in 11 years.

STRATEGIC INTERESTS

Hailing the partnership accord, the Saudi Ambassador to Japan, Abdulaziz Turkistani said in an interview that the partnership accord will add “concrete strategic contents” to Saudi-Japanese ties and strengthen partnership in different fields.

“We have agreed to upgrade the quality of our relationship to that of a strategic partnership and that this partnership will cover economic issues, trade and investment issues, the Saudi diplomat while adding that the relation will include issues relating to energy security and cooperation in other sectors.

“Japan is especially dependent on imported oil and natural gas after shutting down nuclear reactors following last year’s tsunami. About 30 percent of the total oil consumption of Japan is supplied by Riyadh.

REPLACEMENT

According to a recent Reuters report, JX Nipon Oil and Energy Corporation, Japan’s biggest oil refinery, is in talks with Riyadh and other Gulf oil producing nations to seek replacements for disruptions that may be caused in the wake of an attack on Iran.

Japan wants to safeguard its strategic oil reserves as fresh US sanctions on the Islamic Republic over its alleged nuclear programme threaten to make it difficult for its companies to deal with Iran, its number three oil supplier.

Saudi officials said they also held talks with Japan in the fields of education, culture, technology transfer and industrial collaboration.

Japan occupies the first rank on the list of top 10 countries in terms of Saudi exports, Turkistani said. He also underlined the fact that Riyadh is number one oil exporter to Japan with exports to Japan worth $36.26 billion in 2010. He also revealed that 400 male and female Saudi students are currently enrolled in different Japanese universities and colleges.

Japanese foreign minister Koichiro Gemba will also travel to Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Turkey later this week.

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