I am very pleased to be here in Ramallah, it is my first visit as Minister for Foreign Affairs.
I am proud to say that in Australia I have attended every Palestinian national day commemoration since the early 1990s, and I'm looking forward later today, apart from meeting the Prime Minister and the President, to re-engaging with Ms Hanan Ashrawi who I was honoured to give a peace prize to in Sydney in 2003 in conditions of some controversy.
We had a good meeting today, the Foreign Minister and I, in which we exchanged views on the peace process, Australia's development assistance to the Palestinians and regional developments, especially in Syria, where we have been able to confirm, tragically, the death of seventeen Palestinians since June.
I will continue these discussions throughout the afternoon.
I remain concerned by the lack of progress towards realising a two state solution, despite efforts to bring the two parties together, the impasse continues. Australia has continually supported a negotiated two state solution allowing a secure Israel to live alongside an independent Palestinian state. I am concerned that continuing settlement activity is counterproductive to the peace process. I will continue to make this point with the Israeli leaders.
At a time when the Palestinian Authority is facing a serious fiscal crisis I am pleased that Australia is one of the few countries whose support has increased significantly in recent years. We are committed to providing over $300 million in support over five years. Of this, $120 million will go direct to the Palestinian Authority to strengthen institutions in preparation for statehood. We see this as a serious investment in the peace process. I recently announced the contribution of a further $90 million to UNRWA for education and health.
I acknowledge the efforts of the Palestinian Authority in delivering enhanced security, public financial reform and the strengthening of institutions. Australia wants to ensure that the gains made are not lost.
Australia looks forward to deepening our friendship with the Palestinian people and strengthening our cooperation with the Palestinian Authority.
Thank you very much.
- Minister's office: (02) 6277 7500
- DFAT Media Liaison: (02) 6261 1555