Question of Palestine home
United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO)
24 March 1998
SUMMARY RECORD OF THE 6th MEETING
Held at the Austria Center Vienna,
on Wednesday, 3 December 1997, at 3 p.m.
Mr. FÖRSTER (Netherlands)
: Mr. MENASRA (Algeria)
21 The regional dimension
b) Arab countries programme, including technical assistance to the Palestinian people
The meeting was called to order at 3.05 p.m.
THE REGIONAL DIMENSION
(b) ARAB COUNTRIES PROGRAMME, INCLUDING TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE TO THE PALESTINIAN PEOPLE
(Israel) said that Israel, as part of its international and regional commitments, was engaged in programmes of cooperation with many countries, with which it shared the experience and knowledge that it had acquired in various fields. For more than three decades, tens of thousands of trainees had participated in courses, both in Israel and in their own countries, in the spheres of education, health, agriculture, industry, social affairs and leadership.
It was universally agreed that international support for the Palestinian economy was a strategic goal that was essential for the attainment of peace and stability in the region. In 1997, 500 Palestinians had undergone training in such topics as administration, NGOs, the environment, health systems and tourism development planning. Israel was preparing to receive more than 500 Palestinian trainees to take part in 20 courses, and a further 15 courses had been planned for countries of the Middle East and for trainees from the Palestinian Authority. A programme for the training of Palestinian professionals in occupational health and safety had recently been organized. In cooperation with the United States Agency for International Development, two Israeli experts had participated together with Palestinian colleagues in a project in the field of development and health administration in Atlanta. A one-year course for 25 Palestinian experts in workers’ health and rehabilitation had been approved, as had a project planned by a team of Israeli and Palestinian professionals for the development of preventive health services in two Palestinian villages in the West Bank. Two joint study projects were taking place at the universities of Bethlehem and A-Najach under the Netherlands-Israel research programme. That was only a partial list.
The meetings held in Washington in November between representatives of the Israeli and Palestinian delegations had demonstrated the commitment of both Israel and the Palestinian Authority to continuing the process that had begun in Oslo. That process, while not as speedy and smooth as had at first been hoped, was irreversible, and ultimately a comprehensive settlement would be achieved.
Israel was committed to improving the economic conditions in the territories with a view to providing a positive impetus for Palestinian economic development. The Erez industrial zone, at the crossing point between the Gaza Strip and Israel, had not only continued to function, even in very difficult periods, but had also expanded; it today comprised over 80 factories, a significant number of which were owned by Palestinians, and employed more than 3,000 residents of Gaza. The Gaza industrial estate, due to open in mid-1998, would provide employment for 20,000 Palestinians and offer individual Palestinians an alternative to working in Israel. Karni, the other crossing point in the area, was being designed to function without interruption, subject to security needs. The Israeli business sector was investing in that project, either unilaterally or under joint ventures with Palestinian or international entrepreneurs, with coordination by the Israeli Minister of Trade and Industry and simplification of the bureaucratic processes involved. The Israeli Government was also evaluating the possibilities of locating an industrial zone in the West Bank.
Moreover, Israel was seeking to improve the border crossing points and international passages. It had been decided to hand over day-to-day operations at the crossing points from military personnel to civilian professionals under the auspices of the Israel Airport Authority, thereby ensuring that Palestinians using the crossing points would be treated with dignity and caused only minimum delay. The civilian approach would also be adopted with a view to enhancing the transfer of goods produced in the Palestinian Authority to markets in Israel, the Middle East and elsewhere. The Israeli Government had invested over $1.5 million in improving the infrastructure at the Raffah passage to facilitate the movement of goods between Gaza and Egypt, and had expressed its willingness to enlarge the Allenby crossing point in order to expand the passenger and cargo capacities. In 1997, Israel would donate $7 million towards developing the security infrastructure at the Karni cargo terminal, which was being built by Israel in coordination with the Palestinian Authority.
More than 50,000 Palestinians were currently employed by Israelis. Israel was willing to increase the number of permits for Palestinians in accordance with market demand and to allow some to stay in Israel on a weekly basis, subject to security criteria. To facilitate the employment of Palestinian workers inside Israel, a plan was being proposed to safeguard the flow of Palestinian workers into the country, even at times of security tension. That plan called for cooperation between Israel and the Palestinian Authority in the creation of a new preferential passage status.
All those measures were intended to lessen the effect on the economic situation in the territories of the strict security measures that Israel was obliged to implement following terrorist attacks, thereby laying the foundations for sustained economic growth that would lead to the flourishing of the private sector in the Palestinian Authority and indicate that the peace process meant tangible benefits and served the interests of all parties.
(League of Arab States), ...
The League of Arab States wished to insist on the need for the Organization to strengthen its programmes carried out in the Arab region and to continue its technical assistance to the Palestinian people. He hoped that the consultations regarding the development of those programmes would be continued. The participation of nationals of Arab States in the UNIDO Secretariat was insufficient, and he wished to request that use be made of their experience and expertise so that they might participate in the activities of the Organization. He also hoped that the number of national and regional offices in the Arab countries would be increased.
The meeting rose at 6.25 p.m.
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