Since its first meeting in 2010, the German-Palestinian Steering Committee has been the main forum for consultations between the German Government and the Palestinian Authority. It brings together senior representatives from German and Palestinian ministries to discuss the whole range of German-Palestinian relations. The present meeting was attended on the German side by Foreign Minister Maas and Minister of State Annen, as well as representatives from the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy and the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development. Germany is an important partner to the Palestinian Government and provided support worth approximately 320 million euros to the Palestinian population in 2019, in part through the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) and as humanitarian assistance, but also in fields such as local governance, education and science.
Challenges posed by COVID‑19
The Palestinian Authority acted decisively, introducing comprehensive restrictions on movement which ensured that COVID‑19 could not spread fast in the West Bank. It is above all the Palestinian economy that is suffering under these severe restrictions. Foreign Minister Maas stressed that the relatively mild nature of the COVID‑19 outbreak in the West Bank was due to the quick response of the Palestinian Authority. Now it was vital to mitigate the economic impact and to tackle the urgently needed economic and political reforms. Germany supports UNRWA as the key stakeholder for dealing with the COVID‑19 crisis in the Palestinian territories and has provided 20 million euros for the organisation’s COVID‑19 appeal.
What next for the Middle East peace process?
The talks also centred on the frozen Middle East peace process. Following the formation of a new Israeli Government last Sunday, Foreign Minister Maas and Palestinian Prime Minister Shtayyeh also discussed how to progress with the Middle East peace process. The German Government’s position remains unchanged: only a two‑state solution negotiated by the two sides can bring lasting peace and security for Israelis and Palestinians alike. Foreign Minister Maas commented as follows:
From our point of view, borders may only be altered as the result of negotiations or with the agreement of both sides. We therefore call for the resumption of direct negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians and are ready to support this course with our partners. Unilateral steps are no alternative.