Japan's Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura got a taste of Middle East shuttle diplomacy during his visit to
Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
In a statement Sunday, Jan. 16, Israel's Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom said he "called on the minister to convey to the Palestinian leadership Japan's urgent call for Palestinian terrorism to end. The era of Palestinian excuses has ended. The time for action is now. The rocket and terror attacks on Israeli communities must stop."
Shalom added: "Progress toward dialogue and peace will not be possible without consistent and effective Palestinian action on the ground to end the terror against Israel's civilians. It is our hope that the visit of Foreign Minister Machimura will help bring the necessary actions, so that we an indeed proceed along the path to regional peace and prosperity
that we seek."
Machimura then went to meet with Chairman Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority and
the following day, Monday, Jan. 17, he met with Israel's Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.
According to a press release from Israel's Ministry of Foreign affairs, Machimura told Sharon "that the PA Chairman is interested in dialogue with Israel, adding that Abu Mazen told him that he also believes that he must act against terrorism and that last Thursday's attack (in which six Israelis were killed at the Karni Crossing
between Israel and Gaza) was directed against the Palestinians."
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs release reported that Sharon replied that "while the attack might have been directed against Palestinians as well, the only victims were Israeli civilians, and this we cannot countenance."
Sharon told Machimura that "we do not see any intention by the Palestinians to fight terrorism and halt
terrorist actions against Israel. They could deploy Palestinian police personnel in the areas that they are firing Kassam rockets from and they could investigate the latest attack at the Karni
Crossing and put its perpetrators on trial."
He said the freeze on direct contacts between Israel and the Palestinians will continue
until such actions are taken. "Similarly, we have decided to close the crossings (from the Palestine Authority into Israel) since the terrorist organizations have
focused their terrorist actions against us at the crossings."
Machimura brings back to Japan an invitation from Sharon for Japan's Prime Minister Junichuro Koizumi to visit Israel.
The Japanese foreign minister invited Sharon to visit Japan.
The last Japanese Prime Minister to visit Israel was Tomiichi Murayama in 1995, according to the official website of Japan's Foreign Ministry. Two of Israel's prime ministers have visited
Japan while in office: Yitzhak Rabin in 1994 and Benjamin Netanyahu in 1997.