Palestine tops agenda at East Asia meet

Palestine tops agenda at East Asia meet

Representatives of 22 nations met in Jakarta on Saturday to discuss Palestinian development, with co-chairs Japan and Indonesia reiterating their support for a two-state solution, according to Agence France-Presse.

The second Conference on Cooperation among East Asian Countries for Palestinian Development (CEAPAD) aims to boost infrastructure and support the private sector in the Palestinian Territories, Al Arabiya reported.

But a looming deadline for a full Middle East peace deal brokered by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is expected to feature prominently in talks.

"We still believe that the two-state vision can be envisaged and realized. And here I must commend the... efforts of Mr John Kerry," Rami Hamdallah, the Palestinian prime minister said during the international conference's opening.

Kerry, who brought back the two sides back to the negotiating table in late July after a three-year hiatus, said Wednesday a full deal would likely slip past the April 29 deadline.

The document has not yet been made public, but "all issues actually have been [put] on the table," Hamdallah said on Friday according to AFP.

The document is understood to include a non-binding proposal laying out guidelines for negotiating the central issues of the conflict, including such as borders, security, Jerusalem, the settlements and the right of return for Palestinian refugees.

Hamdallah expressed gratitude to donor nations, but said Israeli settlements were "severely" hampering development.

"Sixty-two percent of all our land is still controlled by the Israeli authorities. This impedes any access we have to natural resources, and severely restricts our development," Hamdallah said.

During the opening ceremony, the Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said: "The people of Palestine have been struggling to achieve this dream for more than five decades."

"Providing them with capacity-building program is critical," he added.

Indonesia envisaged a Middle East "at peace with itself and the rest of the world" and that peace would also depend on a treaty on nuclear weapons and weapons of mass destruction, Yudhoyono said

As far as Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida is concerned, he said that security in the Middle East was "by no means someone else's problem in a distant region" for Asian nations.

"I firmly believe participating countries share the common determination to assist in a Palestinian state-building that promises to bring about regional peace and stability," he said in Japanese, according to an official statement.

"Such assistance will help achieve a 'two-state solution', which would see Palestine and Israel in peaceful coexistence and co-prosperity," he added.

The CEAPAD is jointly chaired by Indonesia, the Palestinian Authority and Japan.

Among attending nations are South Africa, Singapore, Australia, Brunei and Vietnam, while China's special envoy on the Middle East issue Wu Sike attended.

The CEAPAD was initiated by Japan, a major donor to the Palestinian Territories, with the first event held in Tokyo last year.

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