Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said on Wednesday that Israel was ready to begin peace talks with the Palestinian Authority right away.
Speaking during a meeting with Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida, Netanyahu said, “We both want to see peace between Israel and the Palestinians. I hope that soon we will be able to see the beginning of peace talks.
“Our team is ready – we've always been ready,” Netanyahu added. “And I want to thank Japan for its support for peace, specifically for the project called ‘The Corridor for Peace and Prosperity’ in the Jordan Rift. This is something that is a Japanese initiative that works together with Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority for the economic advancement of everyone and I think it shows that regional cooperation can work, that it can make a tangible difference.”
Netanyahu welcomed the Japanese Foreign Minister to Jerusalem, saying that “Japan and Israel are two countries separated by the vast continent of Asia. You are on the Eastern tip of Asia; we are at the Western edge of Asia. But though there is a great geographical expanse between us we share a special relationship. In fact Japan is one of Israel's oldest friends in Asia. Last year we celebrated the 60th anniversary of our diplomatic relations. We are two peoples with a proud cultural heritage and a rich history. Yet, at the same time, we are two peoples with a great past but also two peoples that embrace the future.”
“Japan and Israel are two democracies that seek peace, security and prosperity for our peoples, and we work very hard to achieve it,” said Netanyahu. “You have exploded with Japan's technology and industry and I dare say that we are doing the same here in Israel. We can better advance our common goals by strengthening our bilateral cooperation – in economics and trade and investment, in science, technology and R&D, in regional cooperation, in diplomacy and in security.”
Kishida, who thanked Netanyahu for the warm hospitality, said that the Middle East peace process “is an essential issue of the international community.”
“Japan and Israel have enjoyed good relationship and I always wanted to visit Israel, and at this time I’m very pleased to be able to finally visit your country,” he added.
“As the Prime Minister mentioned, we have made a great progress in the cooperation between the two countries in the areas such as political, economic, culture and also science and technology.
“Last year was the 60th anniversary of the establishment of the diplomatic relations between the two countries. We’d like to make this year as the start of another 60 years of friendship, invite to make cooperation towards the future.”
“There was a positive development on the Middle-East peace process just before my visit. I welcome such positive development,” said Kishida, referring to a recent announcement by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry that the two sides would resume negotiations.
“Today, I’m looking forward to exchanging views with Prime Minister Netanyahu on the Japan-Israel relationship and also issues concerning the Middle East peace process, which the Prime Minister is a leading figure in this,” he added.
Reports this week indicated that Netanyahu intends to free 82 terrorist prisoners in the course of negotiations with the Palestinian Authority. Most if not all of the terrorists were convicted of murder.
The prisoners are reportedly to be released in four waves, once every two or four months, as the negotiations advance.
There were also reports that Kerry has deposited a letter with the PA in which he states that negotiations will be based on the idea of a return to pre-1967 borders. However, this is denied in Israel.