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Department of Public Information (DPI)
13 April 2007
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York
PRESS CONFERENCE BY EUROPEAN UNION COMMISSIONER FOR EXTERNAL RELATIONS
The European Union’s long-standing relationship with the United Nations was at a very important stage today and its commitment to the Organization went far beyond development and humanitarian issues, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, the regional body’s Commissioner for External Relations and Neighbourhood Policy, said at a Headquarters press conference this morning.
Briefing correspondents on her earlier appointment with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, she said that relationship was based on strong convergent objectives in many areas, and that the two organizations needed each other today more than ever. The meeting with the Secretary-General had focused mainly on the Middle East, both the European Union and the United Nations being members of the Quartet, which was due to hold its next meeting in early May, most probably in Egypt.
Noting that she and the Secretary-General had both visited the region recently, she said the latest developments there –- the Arab League Peace Initiative, the formation of the Palestinian National Unity Government and the regular meetings between Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas -- had given new momentum to the peace process. The new Government was an important step towards Palestinian unity, and the European Commission stood by its commitment to it, depending on how its actions reflected Quartet principles.
She said that, after meeting with Palestinian Finance Minister Salam Fayat in Brussels two days ago, she could clearly say he endorsed those principles and was among those who believed in a peaceful solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. While the European Union would “open up” towards technical assistance to bring the Finance Ministry into the right position to receive donor funds, that would not happen overnight, as Mr Fayat himself had acknowledged. However, the European Union would continue to assist them through the Temporary International Mechanism, which had been extended for another three months at the last Quartet meeting.
A correspondent asked how technical assistance funding would be transferred into Palestinian Authority banks and what form that aid would take. What time frame was envisaged for delivery?
Ms. Ferrero-Waldner clarified that Finance Minister Fayat had asked for €1.3 million to €1.4 million, but did not expect the European Union to provide the whole amount. He had sought help from the international community, including the Arab States, whose significant pledges had not yet been fulfilled. He hoped also to obtain $700 million in funds withheld by Israel. With respect to technical assistance, there was a need to make the Finance Ministry more transparent and to build capacity. The time frame depended on the Palestinians. Regarding funds, the European Union was looking to see how the National Unity Government respected the Quartet principles.
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