Palestinian PM hails UN ''birth certificate''

Salam Fayyad says UN report and talks in Brussels "effectively recognise the reality of a state in Palestine".

    Fayyad hopes the Palestinian Authority will be ready for statehood by September [AFP]

    Salam Fayyad, the Palestinian prime minister, has said that a United Nations endorsement of his administration''s readiness to govern amounts to "a birth certificate" for Palestinian statehood.

    Fayyad''s comments on Wednesday came as diplomats and donors met in Brussels to discuss Palestinian state-building efforts and follow up a UN report that assessed the Palestinian Authority as "sufficient for a functioning government of a state".

    That assessment by the UN, World Bank and International Monetary Fund was backed by donors at the Brussels meeting.

    Fayyad said that the talks in Brussels amounted to "a landmark event" after participants "effectively recognised the reality of a state of Palestine".

    Peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians have been on hold since late 2010 over Jewish settlement in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

    Tony Blair, the former UK prime minister, speaking for the Middle East Quartet at the Brussels meeting, said that "credible political negotiations" were needed on a "very urgent" basis to "revive the political process".

    Palestinian efforts to win recognition for a Palestinian state have continued separately to peace talks.

    Fayyad has said he expects the Palestinian Authority to be ready for statehood by September, when Palestinian officials have said they may seek UN General Assembly recognition.

    At the Brussels meeting, the Palestinian Authority submitted to donors a three-year plan for Palestinian state-building, seeking about $5bn of foreign aid to build state institutions.

    "The next three years will witness a transformation in the nature of external aid from ''life support'' to real investment in the future of Palestine," the report said.

    EU trade deal

    In the latest sign of slowly growing support for a Palestinian state, the European Union granted duty-free access to farming and fishing goods from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip as part of the talks.

    Excluded from that agreement is a "specific duty for imports of fruit and vegetables" which the EU maintained to ensure Palestinian exporters could not severely undercut European growers.

    Catherine Ashton, the chief EU diplomat, signed the deal for the Europeans.

    Participants, including Russia and the US, also backed observer status for the Palestinian Authority at the World Trade Organisation.

    The Palestinian Authority is one of the EU's smallest trading partners worldwide, with imports equivalent to just $8.8m in 2009.

    Irit Ben-Abba, an Israeli economic affairs ministry official, said progress on governance was mainly down to Israeli customs and treasury action, and said Palestinian exporters already benefited from free-trade deals negotiated by Israel.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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