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Accord first, then reform help: Japan

Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida yesterday said Japan was standing ready to provide promised electoral-reform assistance to Cambodia.

But a spokesman for the minister later clarified that Japan could not finalise what sort of assistance it would provide until the ruling and opposition parties sort out their differences and lay out the details of a political agreement.

“Cambodia has been making efforts towards electoral reform in order to solve the [political deadlock] which occurred after the last national election in July,” Kishida told reporters at a press briefing yesterday following a two-hour closed-door meeting with Foreign Minister Hor Namhong.

“Japan will actively help with democratic electoral reforms, and I strongly hope there will be a clear [outline] of electoral reforms in such a way that the ruling party and the opposition party will be able to settle their divisions.”

A group of Japanese electoral experts visited the Kingdom in May to conduct a week-long study after Prime Minister Hun Sen asked Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe for reform assistance during his visit to the country in November last year.

But Japanese Foreign Ministry deputy press secretary Koichi Mizushima told reporters yesterday evening that Japan was waiting for more details and agreement to emerge from party talks.

“We cannot provide the assistance to your government unless the direction for this electoral reform will be decided,” he said.

“Once we get such information, we will decide which area that we are going to provide assistance. This is going to be related to election reform like the registration process or how to mobilise the people to come and vote and so on.

“There are many areas and stages for possible cooperation, but we will decide, of course, in cooperation and consultation with [both] sides after we get some sense [what direction] this is political discussion will go.”

He added that achieving political agreement between the two parties was “best left to the Cambodian people to decide”.

Mizushima added that Kishida had “expressed his expectation” in meetings with Namhong and Hun Sen that Cambodia would make further financial contributions to the Khmer Rouge tribunal or seek more contributions from other countries, including those in ASEAN, in order to make up funding shortfalls on the national side.

Japan is the court’s largest donor and has in the past stepped in with contributions to ensure local staff salaries are paid.

Namhong and Kishida signed off on a previously reported package of loans and grant aid worth about $143 million yesterday afternoon.

The pair also discussed regional issues, including North Korea, Namhong said.

“Regarding the issue of the DPRK, we express our concern, as the DPRK still continues to launch missiles in violation of decisions by the United Nations Security Council.”

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