Berlin conference to boost Palestinian security

AFP - [email protected] • 24 Jun, 2008 Updated Tue 24 Jun 2008 07:47 CEST
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An international conference opens in Berlin on Tuesday aiming to bolster the rule of law in the Palestinian territories and create the necessary conditions for the creation of a viable state.

The one-day conference in the German capital will be followed in the evening by a meeting of the Middle East Quartet a week after Hamas and Israel declared a truce.

The heads of the Israeli and Palestinian negotiating teams as well as US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will hold talks on the sidelines, a Palestinian official said on Monday.

The conference, due to be attended by 41 countries, is focused only on helping the Palestinian Authority (PA) in the West Bank and does not cover the Gaza Strip. The Gaza Strip, home to 1.5 million people, has been subject to a near-total Israeli blockade since the seizure of power a year ago by the Islamist Hamas, which the international community refuses to talk to until it renounces violence and recognises Israel’s right to exist.

The EU Police Mission in the Palestinian Territories (EUPOL COPPS), set up in 2005 to train the Palestinian police force, will call on donor nations gathered in Berlin to earmark $187 million to help the PA. The cash, a total of $7 billion pledged to the PA in Paris in December, is not aimed at tackling militants but at building up the basic infrastructure needed for a functioning state, organizers said.

The projects include training criminal and traffic police and building police stations, prisons and courts, as well as a forensics lab.

The conference’s “key aim is to emphasize the commitment of the international community to the development of policing and justice” in the PA, said Colin Smith, a retired British officer who heads the EU training mission. “The Palestinian police are a capable police force that has a great deal of skills. What they lack is capacity, equipment and infrastructure,” he said in Ramallah, political capital of the occupied West Bank, last week. “They do a remarkable job with very little.”

Palestinian prime minister Salam Fayyad is to head the Palestinian delegation to the German capital.

Also present will be Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, Arab League secretary general Amr Mussa, EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana, Quartet envoy Tony Blair and 23 foreign ministers including Russia’s Sergei Lavrov.

“The conditions for a peaceful solution are better today than they have been in the last 10 years,” German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said at an Israeli-European security forum ahead of the conference. But he added that for violence to stop and for a two-state solution to become reality it was vital that the Palestinians themselves are in a position to create more security.

“More security for the Palestinians also means more security for Israel ... Only when people in Israel and the Palestinian territories start to see an improvement in their lives will they put their trust in talks,” Steinmeier said.



AFP 2008/06/24 07:47

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