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Palestinians: Small Businesses

Volume 470: debated on Thursday 17 January 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what assessment he has made of the likely impact on the development of Palestinian small and medium-sized businesses of the proposed creation of industrial zones near the Green Line between Israel and Palestine promoting economic co-operation between Israel and Palestine. (178444)

The UK Government believe that the proposed industrial zones can help economic recovery given the right conditions. However, the capacity of the six Israel-West Bank crossings will need to be sufficient for processing both the eventual industrial estate traffic and existing trade, including by small and medium businesses. The World Bank is currently assessing the capacity of those crossings and we hope this will clarify whether any of the crossings will be a bottleneck for trade.

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what steps have been taken since November 2007 to implement the provisions of the 2005 Agreement on Movement and Access in respect of the Palestinian Territories; and what assessment he has made of the impact such steps had on the ability of Palestinian businesses to trade (a) within the West Bank and Gaza, (b) between the West Bank and Gaza and (c) internationally. (179074)

No steps have been taken since November 2007 to implement the 2005 Agreement on Movement and Access. Movement and access remains the main constraint on the ability of Palestinian businesses to trade within, between and outside the West Bank and Gaza Strip. This was the conclusion of both the UK-funded World Bank’s Investment Climate Assessment in March 2007 and the UK Government’s report on the “Economic Aspects of Peace in the Middle East” of September 2007.

The UK Government continue to call on Israel to fulfil their obligations on Movement and Access. The Palestinian Authority also has obligations to improve security. We hope that progress will be made as part of the peace process started at Annapolis.