Apart from seeking greater participation in the peace process between Israel and Palestine, Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva said in Bethlehem, West Bank, that Brazil is ready to grant more economic support to Palestine. “We are ready to support the initiatives of Fayyad Plan”, said Lula, referring to the economic development project elaborated by prime minister Salam Fayyad.
The plan includes 201 projects, especially in the infrastructure area, for the value of US$ 5.5 billion. At the closing of the Brazil-Palestine Business Seminar, organized by the governments of both countries with the support of the Arab Brazilian Chamber of Commerce, Lula said that part of this support will be through identification of export opportunities for Palestinian products alongside investment.
“We want to collaborate with the Fayyad government plan to modernize the infrastructure and reduce Palestine’s international dependence,” said Lula, adding that, for this reason, the governments of Brazil, Spain and the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) are going to promote, in São Paulo, a conference on investment in the territories occupied by Israel, in the second half of the year. “The challenge is to attract technology and capital from Brazil to Palestine,” he said.
Salim Taufic Schahin, president at the Arab Brazilian Chamber, which is participating in the organization of the seminar, said that the objectives of the event will be to “promote the opportunities existing in Palestine among the Palestinian Diaspora in South America and the trade sector.” “Sectors previously identified as those with potential are granite and marble, religious tourism, olive products and handicraft,” said Schahin.
“Building and infrastructure services, included in the scope of Fayyad Plan, are an entire chapter of opportunities in which Brazilian companies in the sector are ready to cooperate,” added Schahin. “I would specially like to thank the Arab Brazilian Chamber, a partner of the government of Brazil in the organization of this event,” said Lula.
To the president, the first challenge that needs to be faced for economic development of Palestine is the breaking of the Israeli blockade. The West Bank is currently surrounded by a concrete wall, with control posts, making Palestinian circulation hard, and the Gaza Strip is surrounded by military forces. “The strangulation imposed on the West Bank and Gaza stunts the access to the international trade flows,” he said.
According to Lula, “knocking down the wall will only be the first step for reconstruction, after years of suffering and destruction.” The president stressed the Brazilian support to the creation of a Palestinian State with conditions for economic development.
Prime minister Salam Fayyad said that the economy of Palestine has improved in recent years, mainly due to countries that donated funds, like Brazil. He pointed out, however, that the occupation has maintained the economic performance far from its potential and sustainable development may only take place after the occupation finishes. “This occupation is going to finish, that is a given. The problem is when,” he said.
Peace talks between Israel and the PNA suffered one more setback last week, when the government of Israel announced the construction of new settlements in Eastern Jerusalem, considered occupied Palestinian territory.
Before speaking at the end of the seminar, Lula met with the president of the PNA, Mahmoud Abbas, with whom he should have a formal meeting Wednesday. According to Brazilian Foreign minister Celso Amorim, despite the new diplomatic crisis, the Palestinian leader is still working on negotiations, paralyzed for some time.
To him, for the return of the process, some “practical” action from Israel is necessary, a “new fact”, so there may be a minimum of trust among the parties involved. The Israeli decision also irritated the government of the United States. Amorim added that Abbas “called for Brazil to continue greatly interested” in the talks.
At the seminar, Lula said that the “lack of dialogue” causes “things to take a long time to develop”. He made the audience clap and laugh several times, among them when he said the solution of two states, an Israeli and a Palestinian one, is a consensus, “but it is yet to be known why it has not taken place until now”, and when he said that whenever he asks, both sides say things are “going well”. “But I feel that something is not going well.”
Lula added, who knows, that maybe this year some result may be reached and also pointed out that Brazil has always been interested in the peace process, “but never engaged in finding a solution as it is now”. “I imagine living to see the day when I come to the region and land at an airport within Palestinian territory,” he said, referring to the fact that all access to Palestine, by air or land, crosses Israel.