Livni: World need not get involved in Israel-PA talks

EU envoy expects $5 billion to be raised for PA in Paris.

Livni Rupel 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
Livni Rupel 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
International involvement in the bilateral negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians is undesirable, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said in Slovenia Tuesday, a week before the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations are to begin. "The negotiations are bilateral and will take place between the sides alone," Livni said. "International involvement in the direct negotiations is not desirable. The international community, the EU and the Arab world need to support the negotiations and help build Palestinian governing institutions and capacity, and back the war on terrorism so that the principle of a two state solution does not remain on paper." Livni was in Slovenia meeting with the political leadership there on the eve of Slovenia taking over the rotating presidency of the EU on January 1. Regarding international support, the EU's ambassador to Israel, Ramiro Cibrián-Uzal, said at a press briefing Wednesday that the Paris meeting of donor countries on December 17 was the next "milestone" in the process that began last week in Annapolis. He said the expectation was that the donor nations would pledge more than $5 billion to Palestinian security and institutional capacity building. The ambassador said the Paris meeting, which is being put together by Quartet envoy Tony Blair, is "an important event in confirming the recovery of the Palestinian Authority." Israeli officials have said the overarching significance of the Paris meeting is that it would indicate whether the Arab countries who attended the Annapolis conference would step up to the plate and contribute to the PA, thereby indicating backing for a two-state solution which the PA has endorsed. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, meanwhile, will ask the international community at Paris to nearly double aid through 2010, for a total of $5.8 billion, saying he needs help with a huge deficit, but also promising to curb spending and to spark economic growth. The Abbas government's 2008-2010 development plan, obtained Tuesday by The Associated Press, will be given to officials from donor countries in Paris on Friday, ahead of the meeting there in two weeks. Seventy percent of the aid is to go for budget support, including $120 million a month for wages, and 30% is to be spent on development projects. Since the mid-1990s, the international community, led by Europe, has sent billions of dollars to the Palestinian territories. Critics charge that large sums were siphoned off by corrupt officials in previous regimes. Under the current arrangement, Abbas' government, which controls the West Bank, pays the salaries of civil servants in Gaza who do not cooperate with Hamas. Colin Smith, head of EU POL COPPS, which is supporting the Palestinian civil police force, told reporters in Jerusalem Wednesday that the PA is paying salaries of nearly 12,000 policemen in Gaza even though, because Hamas is in control, they are not working. While Cibrián-Uzal was sanguine about the Paris conference, he was non-committal on Russia's intentions to convene an international Middle East peace conference in Moscow early next year. He said it was first necessary to see how "robust" the process between Israel and the Palestinians would become, and what would come out of the Paris meeting, before determining if there was a need for another international conference. Both Israeli and US officials have been cool to the idea of a Moscow conference. AP contributed to this report