Palestinian security conference opens in Berlin

June 24th, 2008 - 4:47 pm ICT by IANS  

Berlin, June 24 (DPA) - An international Mideast conference got under way in Berlin Tuesday with a pledge to help Palestinians and Israelis resolve their conflict. “We cannot relieve the parties of their task of finding a compromise,” German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said in his opening address. “But we can, and we want, to help them.”

Foreign ministers from around 20 countries are taking part in the conference, which is intended to help Palestinians prepare for the day they take on responsibility for their own state.

Efforts by the Palestinian Authority to modernize its police force and court system are the focal point of the gathering, which is expected to raise 183.6 million dollars over the next three years for police training, equipment and judicial projects in the West Bank.

Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Jordanian Foreign Minister Salah Bashir are among those attending, but Syria didn’t send a delegation.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Arab League Secretary General Amr Musa and international Mideast envoy Tony Blair were also present.

Following the conference, Rice, Lavrov and Blair will join European Union foreign policy supremo Javier Solana and a representative of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon at a meeting of the Mideast Quartet of mediators.

The gathering in the German capital comes in the wake of a major donors’ conference in Paris in December, which raised $7.4 billion in aid for the cash-starved Palestinians.

Some of the funds pledged in Berlin will go to expanding the role of the European Union mission helping the Palestinian Authority reform and retrain its 7,000-strong police force.

Currently there are 33 EUPOL COPPS (EU Police Mission for the Palestinian Territories) police advisers in the West Bank and the number could soon by augmented by 20 legal experts, diplomats said.

Steinmeier hopes the conference will a send a positive signal to the region and make clear to the Palestinians that not only peace but also the long road towards achieving this goal pays dividends.

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