DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe arrived in the United Arab Emirates on Sunday at the start of a trip across the Mideast, meeting first with a crucial oil supplier for his energy-hungry nation.
Abe flew into Abu Dhabi, the country's oil-rich capital, with plans to meet powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan and other officials.
Abe was greeted at Abu Dhabi International Airport on Sunday night by Emirati Minister of State Sultan al-Jaber, according to the UAE's state-run WAM news agency. Al-Jaber also leads Abu Dhabi's state-run oil company.
About a quarter of all oil imports for Japan come from the UAE, a federation of seven sheikhdoms on the Arabian Peninsula, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. A third comes from Saudi Arabia, while a fifth of all its natural gas imports come from Qatar and the UAE, making peace across the Gulf Arab nations crucial to Japanese energy supplies.
In February, Japan's INPEX Corp. received a 10-percent stake in Abu Dhabi's offshore Lower Zakum oilfield for 40 years after paying a fee of $600 million. It separately paid $250 million to extend its interests in two other oilfields. The Lower Zakum produces some 450,000 barrels of oil per day.
Abe made previous visits to the UAE in 2007 and in 2013.
After Abu Dhabi, Abe will travel onto Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian territories. Before leaving Japan, Abe told journalists Middle East peace was a priority on his trip.
"I intend to work for the Middle East peace process by engaging with both Israel and Palestine in a constructive manner," Abe said, according to the Kyodo news agency.
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