Opening Speech by Federal Foreign Minister Steinmeier at the Berlin Conference in Support of Palestinian Civil Security and the Rule of Law

24.06.2008 - Speech

-- Translation of advance text --

Ladies and gentlemen,

Welcome to the Federal Foreign Office and to the Berlin Conference in Support of Palestinian Civil Security and the Rule of Law. I'm delighted to see you all here.

The calendar of Middle East events has been packed over the past 10 months, wheels are in motion. After Jerusalem and Jericho, Annapolis, Paris, London and Bethlehem, we now gather in Berlin. Borne forward by the momentum of the Annapolis Process and their acceptance of the strategic importance of a two-state solution, Palestinians and Israelis are seeking to settle their conflict through intensive talks. The international community seeks to support them in any way it can. We cannot relieve them of the difficult task of seeking a compromise. But we can and do want to help them in their quest for a solution.

The Berlin Conference aims to consolidate and enhance state security structures for the Palestinians. There has been fresh movement in the Middle East these past weeks. Berlin seeks to maintain the momentum generated by the Doha agreement, by indirect talks between Israel and Syria and by the ceasefire in Gaza.

We agreed from the outset that we can best help the parties by adopting a two-track approach, providing political support on the one hand and practical assistance in establishing Palestinian state structures on the other. A solution can only be reached by way of negotiation. But this solution can only be put into practice if reality meets it half way. An abstract negotiated outcome will never become reality of its own accord. Reality must be transformed during the negotiations to enable it to absorb the negotiated solution. At Germany's initiative, we Europeans have translated this conviction into the Action Strategy for the Middle East. The Berlin Conference is a further resolute step in this direction.

What precisely do we want to achieve today? Let me illustrate the answer with a short example.

A few days ago I was in Jenin, together with you, Salaam. We visited the industrial park that Germany has long promoted, and together turned the first sod for the new main road linking it with the town. At the police headquarters we spoke to police officers and presented them with new patrol vehicles. We also inaugurated a new vocational school, which is just one of our projects in the field of education. Business, security and training – three closely connected fields, all of which are prerequisites for stability.

The industrial park promoted by the Germans is designed to provide jobs for more than ten thousand Palestinians. Progress could not be made on it during the lost years of the Intifada. What kind of investor would have been prepared to risk his money under those conditions? But things are now different. It seems that investors are ready to step in. Economic prospects are opening up, prospects the people have yearned for and truly deserve.

Economic development can only take root in a secure environment. That is why it is right that you, Salaam, are so firmly committed to creating a highly skilled and professional Palestinian police force. Well-trained police officers, working together with judges, prosecutors and the rest of the judicial system will be able to provide the population with the desired security and development opportunities.

And that is where we come in. We are gathered here today to support your government in very concrete terms as it builds up its Civil Police and establishes rule-of-law institutions, with projects that have an immediate impact and make a real difference.

The people have high expectations of your government, but also of the international community. They expect calm and order. They expect work, so that they have money to buy bread for their families. They expect tangible progress. We want to address these expectations at today's conference.

The preparations for this conference began several months ago. We realized early on that this cannot be yet another pledging conference. Our aim was to help improve the situation on the ground. We wanted our efforts to be felt beyond these 24 hours, we wanted them to have a tangible, verifiable impact.

It is my impression that we have already achieved a great deal. The Palestinians have made great progress over the past months as regards security. For example, in the course of the preparations for Berlin, the Justice Ministry, the Supreme Court and the Prosecutor General's Office agreed for the first time since the founding of the Palestinian Authority on a framework cooperation agreement. The preparations also served as a catalyst for developments relating to the police.

This effect is not only to be seen on the Palestinian side. It was good, Condi, that we agreed early on to split the tasks between the US and Europe. America is accordingly in charge of support for the National Security Forces, while Europe has taken on the Civil Police and the justice sector.

You have all announced your support for the proposed strategies and projects in advance of today's meeting. I would like to thank you for this. In this context, it was important that you, Tzipi, announced your backing of this conference and its aims so early on.

It is in our common interest to see these projects implemented on the ground as quickly and smoothly as possible. However, we know from experience that implementation is never as easy as we would like. I am therefore particularly glad that the stakeholders involved – the Palestinians, Israel, the USA and the EU – have all designated a specific point of contact. These contact persons should together ensure that the projects in the security and justice sector are implemented efficiently. Salaam, Tzipi, Condi and Javier – thank you all for your willingness to support this process so enduringly.

Much depends on security – for the Palestinians and for the Israelis. Berlin is the launch pad for coordinated development – with the Europeans and Americans working side by side, with the parties and with a joint strategy. I am glad that the United Kingdom and the Netherlands [as co-chairs of the working groups for the security and justice sectors] are willing to host meetings next year. If we honour the pledges made here today, we will, I am sure, make progress and be able to plan further steps forward.

To conclude, I would like to inform you that the Federal Foreign Office will make available a total of 15 million euro for 2008 to 2009 for specific projects in the field of police training and infrastructure, as well as in the justice sector.

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