Wednesday

27th Jul 2016

Barroso in Palestine: 'We are laying foundations of future state'

  • Barroso in Bethlehem: Palestine recently used its new status as a member of UN heritage body, Unesco, to seek special protection for the Christian shrine (Photo: ec.europa.eu)

European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso has pledged support for a future Palestinian state on his first official trip to the region.

Speaking alongside Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad in Ramallah on Sunday (8 July) he said that "through our ... political and financial support we are laying the foundations of a future democratic and viable Palestinian state – its institutions and its infrastructure."

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He voiced "concern" about "the continuous growth of [Irsaeli] settlements in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem."

He also "welcomed" the prospect of a unity government between the more moderate Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and the militant Hamas group in Gaza, which is listed as a terrorist entity by EU countries.

In a second speech in Palestinian-controlled Jericho later the same day, he urged the Palestinian side to "uphold ... the right to peaceful protest and demonstration, the freedom of expression and of the media, as well as the proper treatment of arrested persons and of detainees."

The EU has paid out €4 billion in aid to Palestinian authorities since 2000.

On Sunday, Barroso announced a new €20 million grant to help with police and judicial training and cut the ribbon on an EU-co-financed Palestine College for Police Sciences.

He also met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and is due to meet Israeli leaders on Monday.

Peace talks between the two sides have stalled, with Ramallah-based EU diplomats repeatedly warning that Israeli settler expansion is making a future two-state solution impossible in practice.

Meanwhile, fellow Arab countries have failed to pay out on previous promises of aid for Palestinian state-building.

Fayyad and Abbas both warned that the shortfall in payments could create a crisis in terms of day-to-day governance.

"We have been honouring our commitments even in times of economic turbulence. We call also on other donors, especially donors in the region, to do the same," Barroso noted in Jericho.

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