Speech by Frank-Walter Steinmeier at the “International Conference in Support of the Palestinian Economy for the Reconstruction of Gaza”, Sharm el Sheikh

02.03.2009 - Speech

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Securing humanitarian aid for the people in Gaza and moving forward the efforts aimed at achieving a durable ceasefire must be our topmost priorities.

Even as intensive endeavours to quickly end the hostilities in Gaza were being undertaken during my visits to the region at the beginning of January, it was already clear that swift reconstruction in Gaza would play an extremely important role in achieving a durable ceasefire. Consequently, at my initiative, Germany and its European partners responded in January with a concrete working plan which has served as the basis for our actions ever since.

Sharm el-Sheikh is a milestone in this process and I can assure you, Mr President, of the German Government's full support. Confronted with the important task of reconstruction, Germany is prepared to make a substantial contribution. The Early Recovery and Reconstruction Plan presented by Prime Minister Fayyad is an excellent basis for this work. The Palestinian Authority should be our partner in the process of implementing the assistance. In 2009, we will make a bilateral contribution of 150 million Euros.

We all know that Sharm el-Sheikh must help create the political conditions necessary for effective assistance. Successful reconstruction depends on having the right framework conditions in place. Here I see the following key points:

1. The access issue must be clarified:

The comprehensive humanitarian aid provided by the international community must reach the people in need , and this must be the case on a continual basis and without restrictions. Here I strongly support the position of the US Government and my colleague Hillary Clinton.

Regular, controlled openings of the border crossings to allow the passage of goods and people will enable reconstruction, an improvement of living conditions and economic recovery. To this end, the EU has offered to reactivate the 2005 Agreement on Movement and Access and to adapt its border assistance mission accordingly.

2. A controlled opening of border crossings must be accompanied by the effective prevention of weapons smuggling into Gaza:

The infiltration of weapons must be stopped in order to prevent militant forces from rearming and achieve a lasting cessation of the missile attacks on Israel.

3. Inter-Palestinian reconciliation under President Abbas is of decisive importance for stability and development.

4. Time is of the essence: We must revive the political process and move towards a two-state solution, which is still attainable.

Germany strongly supports the mediation efforts s by Egypt and the Arab League. The regional dimension is becoming increasingly important in achieving solutions in the Middle East. In this context, I welcome the recent efforts by members of the Arab League aimed at achieving agreement among the Arab states.

Now is the time to utilize the potential of the Arab peace initiative. Along with my partners in the EU and the Quartet, I am convinced that the initiative can make a decisive contribution to resolving the conflict.

2009 will be a critical year in the Middle East. The crisis in Gaza sent the hopes built up over the last year tumbling. But dwelling on disappointment is not an option. Determined action must be taken to regain momentum and to revitalise the peace process. Sharm el-Sheikh is the first step.

The goals are clear: Humanitarian aid and reconstruction in Gaza, a durable ceasefire, and pursuing a two-state solution – the German Government will continue to work hard to achieve progress in these areas. For the sake of the people in the Palestinian Territories, in Israel and in the interest of stabilizing the region as a whole.

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