US, Palestinian Officials Mark First Economic Meeting in Five Years With Virtual Conference

© AP Photo / Bernat ArmangueA Palestinian demonstrator waves a Palestinian flag.
A Palestinian demonstrator waves a Palestinian flag. - Sputnik International, 1920, 14.12.2021
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In 2016, members of the US government and the Palestinian Authority met in Ramallah to hold the first US-Palestinian Economic Dialogue (USPED) since 2004. At the time, the US emphasized its desire to work with the Palestinian Authority to strengthen the Palestinian economy and shift its growth model to be "less donor-dependent."
After some five years without scheduled talks, US and Palestinian officials met virtually on Tuesday to renew the US-Palestinian Economic Dialogue, the US Department of State and Palestinian Authority said in a same-day joint statement.
Senior officials from both governments discussed a range of topics, including US regulations, infrastructure development, access to US markets, possible US-Palestinian business connections, and obstacles to Palestinian economic development.
The discussions come as Palestinian foreign aid revenue continues a decade-long decline, particularly observing an 89.6% decrease in revenue for the first three months of 2021, according to Palestinian Finance Ministry data.
Pressing financial issues, as well as renewable energy and environmental initiatives were also addressed during the virtual dialogue.
Yael Lempert, US Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs, asserted to dialogue attendees that the Biden administration believes Palestinians deserve freedom, security, and prosperity.
"Growing the Palestinian economy will also play a critical role in advancing our overarching political goal: a negotiated two-state solution, with a viable Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security with Israel," Lempert said during opening remarks.
Additional attendees included Palestinian Minister of National Economy Khaled al-Osaily; Palestine Monetary Authority (PMA) Governor Dr. Feras Milhem; Minister of Information Technology and Communication Ishaq Sider; and Chairman of the Palestinian Energy & Natural Resources Authority Zafer Melhem.
Earlier this week, Stephan Salameh, the Palestinian Prime Minister's Adviser for Planning and Aid Coordination, emphasized the importance of the resumption of dialogue with the US, "especially under the current US administration."
"The US administration has promised to return financial support to the Palestinian treasury, but what is delaying this is the US law that limit[s] direct support to the Palestinian government, especially the operational support to the treasury, which was going to sustain salaries and poor families," Salameh said, referring to Trump-era legislation that restricted some $200 million in aid to the Palestinian Authority.
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