Both Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) attended Tuesday a meeting at the EU in Brussels of the main international donors to the PA.
The annual meeting of the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee (AHLC), which offers a coordination mechanism to the main donors to the PA with a focus on economy and financial issues, was chaired by the Norwegian Foreign Ministern Anniken Huitfeldt.
The Palestinian Authority was represented by its Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayeh, Israel by the Minister for Regional Cooperation, Issawi Frej.
‘’This meeting is taking place at a backdrop of a deteriorating situation on the ground,’’ insisted EU’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell at a press briefing prior to the meeting.
‘’The recent attacks and violence in Israel and in the Palestinian territories have shown yet again the deeply unstable nature of the current reality and confirmed that the situation is not moving fast enough, or not moving at all, in the right direction,’’ he added.
‘’That’s why our aim fort his meeting is to get more concrete economic, fiscal, security and political results. Because despite the political complexities, efforts must be done for a political process to restart. Everyone has to do their utmost to prevent violence, to avoid unilateral actions and rein in the extremists on all sides,’’ Borrell said.
‘’I hope that we will move towards an intensified level of dialogue between Israel and the Palestinian Authority,’’ he said.
Among the topics discussed at the meeting, said Borell, are ‘’the worrying financial crisis within the PA, the need to ease the occupation with more economic and personal freedom for the Palestinians, the clear need for reforms in the PA and the imortance of fulfiling the democratic aspirations of the Palestinian people.’’
He said he ‘’will repeat the European concern about continued (Israeli) se nttlement expansion, the issue of evictions as well about the situation in Gaza.’’ On Monday, the EU issued a statement on the Israeli Supreme Court decision on the Masafer Yatta eviction case in the South Hebron Hills in the West Bank, which it said ‘’increeases the risk of the forced transfer of some 1,200 Palestinians and the demolition of their homes.
‘’We will also discuss the worrying tension and violence in Israel and Palestine. Too many people on all sides have died and suffered this yeazr in Israel and in the Palestinian territories. Leaders of both sides have a responsibilty. They have to act against extremism and to ensure accountability for the acts of violence. And this is not the case,’’ Borrell added.
‘’Our mandate is to build the foundation for a two-state solution. We have already come forward but the situation in the region remains critical. The political talks have ceased. People are losing the faith in a political solution. Violence and terror are on the rise,’’ said the Norwegian Foreign Minister.
‘’The main focus of today’s meeting is on economic and financial issues. How to build viable Palestinian institutions and how to improve the daily life of Palestinians. The PA is weakened by fiscal deficits. There is an urgent need to strenghten the PA. And national contributions to the Palestinian budget are currently very low. Today we will discuss how Israel should contribute and how the cooperation between Israel and the PA can generate more income for the PA and improve trade infrastructures,’’ Anniken Huitfeldt said.
‘’Since our meeting in Oslo in November, there has been a constructive cooperation between the parties. They have made progress in sectors such as water, energy and labor market. Several measures to ease the situation in Gaza have been implmented,’’ added the minister.
But she stressed that economic cooperation is not enough. ‘’We desperately need a political horizon for ending the conflict.’’