HL Deb 17 March 2005 vol 670 cc14-5WS
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean)

The purpose of the London meeting, on 1 March, was to help the Palestinian leadership strengthen the institutions needed for a future Palestinian state. This work was also aimed at supporting Palestinian efforts to prepare for Israeli disengagement as a step towards achieving the two-state vision envisaged by the road map.

The London meeting was chaired by the Prime Minister. Delegations from 23 nations and institutions attended including the UN Secretary-General Koff Annan, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, EU Secretary General Solana, Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov, G8 foreign ministers and others from the region and beyond, along with the World Bank and IMF.

President Abbas outlined an ambitious but realistic plan for strengthening the Palestinian Authority's (PA's) institutions in the areas of governance, security and economic development. In the area of governance, President Abbas committed his authority to completing the programme of local elections across the West Bank and Gaza in accordance with democratic values; strengthening the public sector and civil service and building a strong and independent judiciary. On security, President Abbas committed his authority to ensuring effective security implementation consistent with the PA's national security plan, in accordance with phase I of the road map; streamlining the existing security and intelligence services; and reviving lines of communication with the Israeli security establishment. On economic development, President Abbas, committed his authority to working to ensure the financial management of the PA is of the highest international standard; implementing a Unified Pensions Law; and stimulating private sector investment as the essential precondition for long-term economic growth.

In response to these plans, the international community committed itself to providing financial and political support. On governance, the international community committed itself to support the programme of elections and the strengthening of the public administration and judiciary. In order to take these commitments forward, the European Commission agreed to develop and implement a short-term strategy for action on governance, supporting progress by the Palestinian Authority and ensuring engagement of the international community. The World Bank agreed to lead efforts to enhance the international community's assistance for economic preparation for Israeli disengagement. This includes exploring opportunities to promote increased private sector investment in the West Bank and Gaza. The participants asked the chair of the AHLC, the World Bank and the European Commission to develop plans to streamline the international effort and enable the international community to respond more flexibly to Palestinian needs, and to present these to the quartet, as soon as possible.

On security, the international community committed itself to providing financial support to re-equip the security services; establishing a fund for early retirement of security personnel; and helping to address the cost of pensions for security officers. The US agreed to form a co-ordinating group to provide significant practical support to the Palestinians in the area of security to fulfil the objective set out by the quartet in May 2004 to establish a US-led oversight committee on security. US security co-ordinator General Ward would play a leading role. The security group will work closely with the PA to oversee the restructuring and retraining of the Palestinian security services. In doing so, it will help the PA fulfil all of its security-related obligations under phase I of the road map.

On economic development, the international community committed itself to providing expertise and financial support for the PA's economic programme. It also offered assistance for activities related to Israeli disengagement and economic revival including working with Israel and the PA to develop a reliable link between the West Bank and Gaza and to dismantle the closure regime and increase freedom of movement. The international community agreed to hold a consultative group meeting of international donors later in the year to consider an increase in funding to the PA and to establish a mechanism under World Bank leadership to encourage increased international private sector investment into the Palestinian economy.

The participants recognised that the implementation of the commitments made by the Palestinian Authority at the London meeting would constitute a major step in implementing its road map commitments. At the same time participants urged and expected action by Israel in relation to its own road map commitments.

The participants at the London meeting also condemned the terrorist bombing in Tel Aviv on 25 February and stressed that such acts must not be allowed to derail the peace process.

The conclusions of the London meeting are being placed in the Library of the House. A copy is also available through the Foreign and Commonwealth Office website: www.fco.gov.uk