Mr. Toepfer was invited to the region by the Israeli Environment Minister Tzachi Hanegbi and by Minister Yousef Abu Safieh of the Palestinian Higher Agency for the Environment.
During his visit to the region Mr. Toepfer also met with Prime Minister Sharon and with Chairman Arafat. Furthermore, he held talks about the framework of the desk study with the environmental authorities in Israel on 14 July and with the environmental authorities in the Occupied Palestinian territories on 15 July. In addition, site visits relevant to the desk study were organized by both hosts.
"My visit to the region will start the desk study on the environmental situation in the Occupied Palestinian territories as decided by the Governing Council of UNEP in February 2002," Mr. Toepfer stated. "This will be an objective process, in close cooperation with both parties concerned, and with the clear aim of listing priorities and proposing recommendations to solve environmental problems".
The Desk Study team will be chaired by Mr. Pekka Haavisto, former Finnish Minister of Environment and Development Cooperation, and managed by a UNEP staff member acting as Project Coordinator. In addition, the desk study team will include the necessary number of experts to address environmental issues such as water, waste management, soil protection, and environmental administration.
The desk study will outline the state of the environment and identify major areas of environmental damage requiring urgent attention. It will be based on review of available, relevant studies and interviews with officials and experts.
"The common understanding is clearly that urgent attention and action is needed to address environmental needs in the region," said Mr. Toepfer.
The desk study will be finalized in November 2002 and presented to the Governing Council of UNEP in February 2003.
The decision to assess the environmental situation in the Palestinian Territories was taken unanimously by the UNEP Governing Council in February 2002 at its Seventh Special Session.
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