Japan and Iraq convened their first economic meeting, hailing a new investment accord as a key step in strengthening bilateral business ties, Kyodo News Agency reported. "Our country is strongly interested in Iraq's oil and energy, as well as demand for infrastructure," Japanese Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba was quoted as saying at the outset of the Japan-Iraq Joint Ministerial Committee. "I am hoping that Japanese companies' investment will increase dramatically by the accord," Gemba added.
Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari told the meeting the two countries must make more efforts to solidify commercial relations, according to the report. The two countries agreed to sign an accord aimed at improving investment protection on June 7 in Baghdad, Kyodo said, citing Japanese officials.
Among other issues, the Japanese side, which was also represented by industry minister Yukio Edano, requested Iraqi senior officials to ensure the security of foreigners and ease business restrictions, the report said.
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and his Iraqi counterpart Nouri al-Maliki agreed last November in Tokyo to set up a joint economic panel to promote investment in large-scale infrastructure projects in the resource-rich country. During the meeting with al-Maliki, Noda said Japan would provide loans of around USD 750 million to Iraq to help it improve the Basra refinery, telecommunication systems and medical services.
Kuwait News Agency (KUNA)