First visit by a Japanese Prime Minister to Israel in the last decade

(Communicated by the Prime Minister’s Office)

Following are Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s remarks this morning (Wednesday), 12 July 2006, at the welcoming ceremony for Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi:

"I would like to welcome Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi to Israel.

We have waited for your visit to Israel, sir, since last January, when it was postponed due to the sad reason of former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s illness.

This is the first visit by a Japanese Prime Minister to Israel in the last decade and I ascribe great importance to it. This visit constitutes an important milestone in our deepening bilateral relations and I am certain that it will contribute to the enhancement of ties between us.

Israel and Japan have much in common; we are two democracies with a long tradition of seeking peace and with common values. Bilateral relations are strong and we intend to develop them further. At our meeting, we will discuss how to do this; we will consider the possibility of establishing joint forums to assist in advancing relations in all fields.

Japan is one of Israel’s most important trading partners. Bilateral trade is flourishing and stands at around $2 billion per annum, mainly in the fields of high-tech and electronics. We are interested in expanding this cooperation into other fields. 

Last year, as Industry, Trade and Employment Minister, I had an important visit to Japan. I attended a conference of business people from both countries that helped to boost both cooperation and the scope of bilateral trade.  

Japan has a significant role in helping to advance diplomatic processes in the Middle East. Under your leadership, Prime Minister Koizumi, Japan has contributed to the implementation of many important regional projects, and I am certain that Japan will, in the future, contribute to calming the Middle East and to the implementation of important projects that will constitute a bridge between us and our neighbors.

These are difficult days for the State of Israel and its citizens. There are elements in both the north and the south that are threatening our stability and that are trying to test our determination.  They will fail and will pay a heavy price for their actions.

I am very satisfied from the visit of such an important leader as yourself, especially during such days. On behalf of the people of Israel, I thank you for your friendship and wish you a successful and fruitful visit."