ROME, December 10, 2003 – International donors to the Palestinians announced at the conclusion of a high-level meeting today that a window of opportunity now exists for renewed engagement on the road towards a peaceful solution of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. To encourage progress, the donors said they will explore establishing a special trust fund to help alleviate a $650 million shortfall in the Palestinian Authority (PA) budget.
The meeting of 14 donor delegations, which provided $1.2 billion to the Palestinians last year, involved high-level participation from the Palestinian Authority and Government of Israel and was hosted by Italy in its capacity as current president of the European Union. The conference included the first meeting between PA Foreign Minister Nabil Sha’ath and Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom since the formation of the new PA government last month.
"What we see today," said Mr. Jan Petersen, the Foreign Minister of Norway, who chaired the meeting of the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee for the West Bank and Gaza (AHLC), "is an impressive demonstration of the continued support of the international community in a very difficult situation."
The AHLC was established to ensure the efficient use of development assistance in support of the peace process and contribute to the development of Palestinian society. In this spirit, the donors attended a presentation on the 2004 Budget of the PA and on its 2004-5 Socio-Economic Stabilisation Plan.
During the meeting, the donors voiced concerns over the critical economic and humanitarian situation in the Palestinian territories and ongoing impediments to the delivery of aid to the Palestinian people. The PA was commended on its budget and fiscal economic plans, with donors emphasizing the importance of addressing its financial needs. According to World Bank President James Wolfensohn, the suggested special trust fund would "support the political process and ensure that a measure of hope can be developed for the Palestinian people."
Conference participants cautioned that the window of opportunity would remain open only with immediate and concrete action and progress on both the political and economic fronts. The donors called for Israel to take immediate steps to ease the humanitarian plight of the Palestinians in accordance with the Road Map, as well as to create a more predictable and secure operating environment for the donor and aid community. They also stressed that the PA must take more decisive measures against terror and continue to forge ahead with reform.
Participants in the AHLC included Norway (Chair), the European Union (Co-Chair), the United States, Japan, Canada, Jordan, Russia, Saudi Development Fund, the Arab League, the UN, Egypt, the Islamic Development Bank, Tunisia, the IMF and the World Bank (Secretariat), the Government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority.