Japan is preparing to hold a foreign ministers' meeting with the six member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council in Saudi Arabia in early September, diplomatic sources said Sunday.
The move comes as Japan aims to strengthen relations with oil-producing countries in the Middle East to ensure a stable energy supply as China's foothold grows in the region amid waning U.S. influence.
Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi is expected to attend the meeting, with visits to Egypt and Jordan also under consideration, the sources said.
Japan relies on the six countries that make up the GCC -- Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates -- for over 90 percent of its crude oil.
During a trip to three Middle Eastern countries last month, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida met with GCC Secretary General Jasem Mohamed al-Budaiwi and agreed to resume negotiations on a free trade deal and to hold regular meetings between the Japanese foreign minister and counterparts from GCC member nations.
The upcoming foreign ministers' meeting is expected to further talks on the FTA and possible cooperation in the field of next-generation energy technologies, with Iran's nuclear program also possibly on the agenda.
In Egypt, Hayashi plans to participate in the third round of political dialogue with ministers from the Arab League, which groups together 21 Middle Eastern and African countries as well as Palestine.
The Japanese government is also arranging to hold bilateral talks with some member states of the GCC and Arab League, according to the sources.