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Germany, Palestine renew mutual commitment to two-state solution


The Jordan Times


AMMAN — The 5th German-Palestinian Steering Committee on Tuesday met virtually under the chairmanship of Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh and German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas to discuss response to the coronavirus pandemic, mutual commitment to the resolution of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and concern over Israeli plans to annex occupied Palestinian territories.
According to a joint statement from the German embassy, the meeting comes on the heels of previous committee meetings and numerous bilateral encounters, such as the visit by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to Berlin in August 2019 and his exchange with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
During the meeting, both sides highlighted the unprecedented global challenge posed by the COVID-19 pandemic and the need for regional and international cooperation to succeed in its containment and deal with its socio-economic impacts. Shtayyeh and Maas acknowledged that this is the time to overcome divisions for the benefit of the vulnerable, according to the statement. 
In view of the “precarious humanitarian and economic situation” affecting people in Palestine, both sides pointed to the relief provided through German humanitarian assistance and development cooperation, including funding to hospitals in East Jerusalem and procurement of equipment for medical laboratories and locally sourced protective gear. These actions are “an integral part of the joint EU support and well-coordinated with the UN-led inter-agency emergency response”, the statement said. 
In this context, the German side expressed appreciation that Palestinian contributions have “eased the difficult financial situation” of East Jerusalem hospitals, with both sides emphasising the need for sustainable financing to ensure adequate medical treatment. 
Both sides also expressed appreciation for UNRWA’s “stabilising role” in dealing with pandemic-related challenges in the region and the “positive impact” of Germany’s continued substantial support to Palestine refugees and UNRWA.
Following the first phase of strict containment measures, “successfully limiting the spread of the pandemic”, German and Palestinian societies are cautiously taking the first steps towards a reopening. This virtual Steering Committee was seen as “a good example” of how cooperation could be continued despite the current circumstances, according to the statement. 
According to the statement, both sides underlined their continued commitment to a negotiated two-state solution to the Middle East conflict, based on international law and on the 1967 borders, allowing for an independent, democratic, contiguous and sovereign Palestinian state and Israel to live side-by-side in peace within secure and recognised borders. 
They reaffirmed their commitment to achieving a just, lasting and comprehensive settlement between Israelis and Palestinians through negotiations on the basis of the relevant United Nations resolutions, including Security Council Resolution 2334 of December 23, 2016, and internationally agreed parameters. Both sides agreed that such a process could be fostered within a multilateral format, such as the Middle East Quartet, the latter possibly expanded by relevant stakeholders, the statement said.
Both sides also noted with “grave concern” the agreement between coalition parties in Israel to advance plans for the annexation of occupied Palestinian territories as stipulated in the Israeli coalition agreement signed on April 20. Annexation of any part of occupied Palestinian territories including East Jerusalem “constitutes a clear violation of international law and seriously undermines the chances for the two-state solution within a final status agreement”, the statement said. 
Germany took note of the Palestinian view that such a step would put an end to all signed agreements, and the two sides emphasised that international law constitutes “a cornerstone of peace and security in the region and of a rules-based multilateral order globally”.
Both sides agreed that a fundamental change to the political, security and economic situation in the Gaza Strip is needed, including the end of the closure and a full opening of crossing points. 
The Palestinian side reiterated that it is “doing its utmost” to improve the living conditions in Gaza, especially regarding health, energy and access to water, as well as to resume its governmental functions, as Gaza is “an integral part of Palestine”, according to the statement. 
Stressing the importance of the work of UNRWA, the two sides highlighted the vital services it provided to Palestine refugees and the importance of its financial sustainability. Until a just and equitable solution to the final status of Palestine refugees is negotiated and agreed upon on the basis of relevant UN resolutions, there is “no alternative to UNRWA”, the statement said. In this context, the Palestinian side valued the German and international community’s support to UNRWA.
Both sides agreed to continue their established “high-level, close and trusting” political dialogue, contributing to the enhancement of bilateral relations and the exchange of views on regional and global issues of mutual concern, the statement said. 
According to the statement, both sides concurred on the importance of viable, effective, transparent, pluralistic and accountable Palestinian governance institutions and on the need to resume the democratic process on the national level to renew the public mandate and representation of the Palestinian governance and its institutions. 
They agreed on the need to build on Abbas’ announcement to the UN General Assembly in September 2019 of holding parliamentary elections in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, stressing the importance of the possibility for broad political participation and a stronger involvement of the younger generation.
In line with Palestinian aspirations for independence and democratic sovereign statehood, the goal of EU and German development cooperation and crisis prevention and stabilisation support is to assist the empowering of governmental institutions and the creation of conditions for peaceful and inclusive development in all of the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, the statement said.
Despite difficult framework conditions and strained financial resources, Palestinian national and local institutions “continue to deliver essential services for the population”. Both sides commended the “increasing efficiency and professionalism” of Palestinian institutions and vowed to further improve good governance, financial transparency and constructive citizen-state relations, according to the statement.
The prime minister expressed sincere appreciation for the continuing German support to develop institutions and the economy in Palestine. Besides bilateral assistance, he also expressed appreciation for the German contribution through the European Union.
The two sides also discussed progress in building an efficient, citizen-friendly Palestinian security sector and efforts to strengthen technical and vocational training for youth and education at Palestinian universities, according to the statement. 
The two sides agreed to convene the next meeting of the German-Palestinian Steering Committee in Ramallah, the statement said.

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