Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, currently chair of the G7, has said he wants to bring Russian President Vladimir Putin back into the fold to engage Moscow’s help over a litany of crises in the Middle East.
Abe’s remarks, in a joint interview with Japan’s Nikkei business daily and the Financial Times published Monday, come with Washington and Moscow taking opposite sides over the years-long civil war in Syria, with the region also wracked by conflict in Yemen, a Saudi-Iran row, as well as countless other issues.
“We need the constructive engagement of Russia,” Abe told the news outlets. “I believe appropriate dialogue with Russia, appropriate dialogue with President Putin is very important.”
Abe said he was willing to go to Moscow, or to invite Putin to Tokyo for talks.
Russia counts Iran and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad among its strongest allies in the Middle East, and Moscow — which also holds a permanent veto-wielding seat on the UN Security Council — is seen as a powerbroker in the region.
The G7 group of advanced economies consists of Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States. It formerly included Russia under a G8 configuration, but Moscow was evicted following the annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.
In a video excerpt of the interview posted on the Nikkei website, Abe also said that “as the chair of the G7” he would consider a visit to Russia “at the appropriate time”, which the Nikkei newspaper interpreted as meaning ahead of the G7 summit in May. Read more