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West Bank (Economy)

Volume 501: debated on Wednesday 2 December 2009

8. What projects his Department is funding to assist the Palestinian economy in the west bank; and if he will make a statement. (303272)

We are providing £3 million over three years to the facility for new market development, which helps Palestinian businesses develop new products and compete in new markets. To date, the facility has supported more than 180 businesses. We are also working closely with the Palestinian Investment Promotion Agency and UK Trade & Investment to promote investment in the occupied Palestinian territories.

In light of the welcome decision to open the Jalama crossing to vehicles, what steps is Israel taking to reduce restrictions and encourage economic growth in the west bank? I would be grateful if the Secretary of State could also say what measures are being taken to support the delivery of basic public services to the people.

We welcome the recent moves by the Israeli Government to reduce movement and access restrictions across the west bank. We believe these steps are essential if there is to be the economic progress that is required to address the 34 per cent. fall in per capita GDP over the last nine years. We are also continuing to support the Palestinian Authority, both in their provision of basic services and as a credible negotiating partner to the state of Israel.

Bearing in mind both this and the earlier exchanges, will the Secretary of State take an early opportunity to inform the Israeli ambassador that nothing could better enhance the reputation of his country than Israel beginning to behave as a good neighbour?

I assure the hon. Gentleman that we have regular contact with not only the Israeli ambassador, but all levels of the Israeli Government. As recently as yesterday, I took the opportunity to discuss not only the situation in Gaza, but, more generally, the situation in the middle east with Ehud Barak, the Israeli Defence Minister. That reflects the continuing dialogue that takes place on these important issues.