Transportation Minister Meir Shetrit and his Palestinian Authority (PA) counterpart, Saed-Eddine Khurma, today (Wednesday), 21.9.05, signed an agreement on establishing a joint transportation office, assisted and financed by the European Union (EU).
According to the agreement, the EU will provide Euro 2.5 million to establish the office, the objective of which will be to initiate and plan joint Israel-PA transportation projects. The EU has committed itself to examine generous financing for any projects that are agreed upon.
Transportation Minister Shetrit said that he believes that economics can promote peace and that this is in the common interest of both sides: "Transportation infrastructures are critical toward promoting economic growth. I hope that via this agreement the EU will be able to assist in financing projects that will build these infrastructures, such as - for example - railways between Haifa and the West Bank and between the Gaza Strip and Ashdod." The minister added that he hopes the first project proposal will be submitted to the November EU meeting in Morocco.
PA Transportation Minister Khurma said that the PA intends to build bridges of peace between the two peoples. He requested Minister Shetrit's assistance regarding easing restrictions and conditions at the border crossings and in rehabilitating the airfield.
Minister Shetrit replied that he would personally check the issue and agreed that since it is very important for the Palestinians, Israel should try to render as much assistance as possible.
EU representative Laurent Muschel, Head of Unit for International Relations at the European Commission's Directorate General for Energy and Transport, emphasized the EU's commitment to the project and expressed the hope that both sides would be able to set aside their political differences in favor of the general welfare.