Japanese still solid on PA industry project

Japan initiated a development project intended to help create a viable Palestinian economy based on private-sector activities and build trust in the region.

Japan project 88 224 (photo credit: )
Japan project 88 224
(photo credit: )
Japan urged Israel and the Palestinian Authority to exercise self-restraint and press forward with peace talks as their ministers, together with Jordan's, reaffirmed political commitment to a Japan-proposed agro-industrial project in the West Bank on Wednesday. Japanese Foreign Minister Masahiko Komura, Environment Protection Minister Gideon Ezra, Palestinian Minister of Planning Samir Abdullah and Jordanian Foreign Minister Salaheddin Al-Bashir underscored in a press statement - the first of its kind - the importance of the initiative to bring about tangible improvement in the region. The four-way meeting was preceded by one-on-one talks between Komura and the three ministers. In talks with Ezra, Komura reiterated Japan's call on Israel to freeze its expansion of Jewish settlements on the West Bank and emphasized the importance of implementing an agreed road map including the halting of the settlements and violence, the Japanese Foreign Ministry said. Ezra was quoted as saying in response that while the situation in Gaza is severe, Israel will continue to abide by the road map and uphold its stance of continuing negotiations with the Palestinian side. Japan initiated the development project called "Corridor for Peace and Prosperity" in July 2006. The plan is intended to help create a viable Palestinian economy based on private-sector activities and build trust in the region for future co-existence and co-prosperity between the Israelis and Palestinians. The statement said the four sides confirmed developments made so far on the project, including an agreement to build the agro-industrial park in the southern part of Jericho, with possible expansion in the future. A feasibility study by the Japan International Cooperation Agency is expected to be completed in November and projects to develop basic infrastructure benefiting the Palestinian people will be implemented as early as possible in 2009, the statement said. Komura also expressed Japan's readiness to extend financial aid for those projects as appropriate. When realized, the agro-industrial park is expected to create employment for some 6,000 to 7,000 Palestinians, a Japanese Foreign Ministry official said. The project, however, faces serious challenges and is highly dependent on the overall political circumstances of the peace process, the official said on condition of anonymity. In particular, the four sides have to sort out possible access routes from the site to Jordan, due to restrictions by the Israeli military on the movement of people and goods in the West Bank, according to the official.