Salam Fayyad, the Palestinian Prime Minister, presented the PA report “Building Palestine. Achievements and Challenges” to the donor coordination group for the Palestine Territories, the Ad-Hoc Liaison Committee (AHLC), and made clear that the Palestinian Institutions are ready for statehood.
The report was presented to the 12-member committee of the European Union and United States, which serves as the principal policy-level coordination mechanism for development assistance to the Palestinians. The meeting in Brussels was hosted by Catherine Ashton, High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice-President of the Commission, and presided over by Norwegian Foreign Minister Støre in his capacity as chair of the AHLC.
The United Nations praised the Palestinian Authority for its efforts at strengthening its institutions in a report (published yesterday), describing aspects of its administration as sufficient for an independent state. Similar assessments were made by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank in reports published last week and also submitted to the AHLC meeting. The World Bank said Palestinians were “well-positioned for the establishment of a state at any point in the near future”, despite the “stringent Israeli restrictions” imposed on them. The IMF stated the PA “is now able to conduct the sound economic policies expected of a future well-functioning Palestinian state.”
The agencies warned, however, that the authority’s achievements were limited by the political and physical restrictions that the Israeli occupation has placed on further development. Some 60 percent of the West Bank’s territory remains under full Israeli control. The PA also identified the Israeli occupation being the “most significant challenge to economic development in Palestine”. This includes the restrictions on movement and access, lack of control over borders and natural resources, access to natural resources, including land and water – all severely constraining any sustainable progress through out the economy.
The meeting was also used to introduce the Fayyad Government’s development plans for 2011-13 and prepare for an upcoming donor Conference in June 2011. On the margins of the AHLC meeting The EU High Representative Ashton and Prime Minister Fayyad signed a Duty Free Quota Free Agreement. The agreement will give immediate access and full liberalisation, for a transitional period of 10 years to the EU market, with possible further extension in time, to all agricultural products, processed agricultural products and fish and fishery products originating in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Catherine Ashton said after the meeting “the Palestinian authorities made significant progress and today the Palestinian authorities compare favourably with those in established states.” She also welcomed the new Palestinian national development plan and went on to say “it’s clear these events can only be sustainable in the event of a political breakthrough. The international community should not let these concerted efforts go to waste.”
Prime Minister Fayyad said the talks in Brussels amounted to “a landmark event” after participants “effectively recognised the reality of a state of Palestine.” He said it was “what amounts to effectively a birth certificate for the reality of Palestinian statehood.”
The endorsements from the UN, World Bank and IMF come at a crucial time for the PA, which has set a September deadline for the completion of its state-building program and is working toward international recognition of Palestinian statehood in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem that month. September is also the target date set by Israel and the Palestinians to reach a negotiated agreement for a Palestinian state, but the latest round of peace talks has been stalled for six months.