22 September 2008
Press Conference

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

PRESS CONFERENCE ON PALESTINIAN DONOR CONFERENCE BY AD HOC LIAISON COMMITTEE


FOR ASSISTANCE TO PALESTINIANS

 


Ministers and senior officials of the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee for Assistance to the Palestinians briefed correspondents at Headquarters today on a meeting they had held earlier on the Palestinian Donor Conference, at which they had reaffirmed that economic progress in the Occupied Palestinian Territory was an essential part of bringing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to an end. 


Quartet Representative and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair said the $1.36 billion in contributions had been “satisfactory beyond many people’s expectations”.  Joining him at the press conference were the Committee Chairman and Norway’s Foreign Minister, Jonas Gahr Store; Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad; and Aaron Abramovich, Director-General of Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.


Committee Chairman Store described today’s meeting as “a good stocktaking of progress”.  There was an increased shift towards budget support for the Palestinian Authority, but the Committee was still short of the targets necessary to meet this year’s expectations, and there was concern for 2009, according to the findings of the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the United Nations.


Despite unprecedented donor contribution and substantial Palestinian reforms, the Palestinian economy was still in stagnation and remained unsustainable, Mr. Store said.  Broad agreement had emerged on the need to mobilize additional budgetary support.   Norway had reallocated another $50 million to the Palestinian Authority, bringing to $60 million its total contribution for this year. The donors who made pledges at the Paris Conference by and large lived up to their commitments, with some even giving more.


Mr. Fayyad reiterated that the meeting had been an opportunity for the Committee to take stock of where it stood relative to expectations.  The $1.36 billion delivered by donors so far had been “extremely encouraging”; it was in line with what Palestine expected and what they needed.


He described the Palestinian Authority’s efforts to provide services to the Palestinian people, but acknowledged that there was still a lot of work to be done.  Donor contributions were not enough to make a qualitative difference in the lives of Palestinians, who were determined to empower themselves and to attain freedom and independence. 


Calling for a paradigm shift in the way Israel handled its commitments under the Road Map, he said it was essential that, in assessing Palestinian progress, the political context under which development was taking place in Palestine be taken into consideration. Additionally, Israel must comply with the provision on settlement activity.


Mr. Abramovich described the meeting as a good one. “We believe we are on the right track in the peace negotiations”, but at the same time, much remained to be done on the ground. Both sides were very involved with the economic project in Palestine. They were making progress and were trying to lift as many roadblocks as they could, but Israel remained wary of terrorist activity from the West Bank.


Mr. Blair highlighted the link between economic stability as a catalyst for the peace process, saying:  “We are in a better position to have the political process succeed at whatever time if the reality on the ground supports the political situation, and that’s why, at the moment, the single most important thing is to drive forward on the security side, and the economic side because if those things succeed, they build from the bottom up the possibility of a Palestinian State.”


The peace process between Israel and Palestine was inching forward, he said.  The framework for success was now in place.  The question that remained was not if the peace process was possible, but how quickly it could be done.


“The truth is, between the years 2000 and 2007, this whole process was spiralling downwards.  It has stopped spiralling downwards and there is some incremental moving back up,” he said, adding that what was needed now was to find a way to make the progress faster and more systematic.  With proper cooperation from all the players, the economic projects undertaken by the Palestinian Government to help its people would flourish and make an immediate difference.


He pointed out that the benefits from the economic projects in Palestine, with the help of the Donor Conference, were already evident through a number of changes, including increased tourist arrivals in Bethlehem.  As a result of improved economic conditions, some major checkpoints had been totally or partially removed.  “The question is how we translate small steps into significant strides forward.  I think what we now have, at least, is an agreed framework within which this situation can be resolved.”


He said that to make bigger strides there was a need for a successful political organization which was the purpose of the Annapolis process.  The security capability of the Palestinian forces also needed to be strengthened, along with the justice system and other such Palestinian institutions.  Economic and social development was crucial.  “We have an agreed framework, we have some progress but we need very much more.  That’s why I say it is a question of speed and it is a question of change being systematic.”


In relation to Gaza, he said that it was necessary to do more on the humanitarian side, but that the only way of ultimately achieving the unity needed was for progress in politics and security on the Palestinian side to be visible to everyone.  It must be seen that “we are creating a strong magnet of forward momentum that draws all sensible people that want a two-State solution together in the same place on acceptable terms”.


Responding to a question on the issue of security and the peace process, Mr. Blair said the discussions between the Israeli Government and the Palestinians continued and he would not speculate on the outcome.  He was sure all concerned would do everything in their power to reach an agreement as soon as possible.  The political process of negotiations was governed by the Annapolis framework.  A successful political process required a stable security and economic situation.


Prime Minister Fayyad added that the humanitarian situation in Gaza remained of great concern.  The misery index remained high.


Minister Abramovich agreed that the security issue was very important to the peace process, and although it was “working fine”, it was still fragile. The people of Israel were helping to protect the peace process.  They were looking at ways to transfer more areas like Jenin to the Palestinian Authority so the Palestinian people themselves would be able to be in charge of their own security.


He pointed out, however, that in Gaza, the Palestinians were not adhering to their commitments to the Egyptians and just yesterday, there had been attacks on Israel. With such a situation on the ground, life could not be expected to be normal.  “We have to defend ourselves when situations happen in Gaza.”


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For information media • not an official record