09/03/2009, 00.00
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Israel and PNA are back talking . . . about economic, not political peace

Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Silvan Shalom and Palestinian Economics Minister Bassem Khoury meet in Jerusalem. Khoury says he hopes that keeping away from politics can lead to “tangible improvements” for Palestinians.
Jerusalem (AsiaNews/Agencies) – After six months of cold relations following the Gaza War, Israel and the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) held their first high level meeting. Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Silvan Shalom and Palestinian Economics Minister Bassem Khoury met yesterday at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem (pictured). Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s proposal of “economic peace” to improve living conditions for Palestinians was at the centre of the discussions.

The two delegations talked about easing restrictions on the entry of Palestinian businesspeople and VIPs to Israel as well as allowing more Palestinians to seek medical care in Israel. They also looked at the possibility of building joint industrial parks and boosting Israeli meat exports to the West Bank and dairy imports from the West Bank to Israel.

Khoury said he also brought up the movement of goods into and out of the Gaza Strip.

The two sides agreed to meet every four to six weeks and set up teams to handle day-to-day issues.

Since Netanyahu took office, the two sides had never met with the Palestinians refusing to sit down for talks.

Khoury said that he hoped that keeping away from politics could lead to “tangible improvements” for Palestinians.

Focusing on economic issues “does not prevent political dialogue, but rather, assists it and gives it momentum,” Shalom said.

Many factors will affect the peace process between the Israelis and the Palestinians, above all Israel’s refusal to freeze settlement construction which the PNA has set as a precondition for renewed talks.

Complicating matters is a plan proposed by Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, who on 25 August said that his government wants to unilaterally create a de facto Palestinian state in two years time.

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