Japan hosts East Asian talks on Palestinian aid

Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad urged East Asian donors Thursday to share their wealth and knowledge for nation-building efforts in his troubled region.

"We find your experience in East Asia highly inspiring," he told a Tokyo conference, citing the way countries in the region have moved away from reliance on overseas aid and become economic powers.

The Conference on Cooperation among East Asian Countries for Palestinian Development (CEPAD) is jointly hosted by Japan and the Palestinian Authority.

It is the first time East Asian nations have gathered in support of Palestinians, to try to improve the efficiency of development aid programmes for the region.

The meeting drew ministers and senior officials from Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, South Korea, Vietnam, the United Nations, the World Bank, the UN Relief and Works Agency, the Islamic Development Bank and the Arab League.

China was not invited, a Japanese diplomat said.

Japan, the third largest donor for Palestinians after the US and the EU, wanted to bring together fellow Asian nations and major global organisations to enhance East Asia's diplomatic and economic presence in the Middle East, the diplomat said.

Fayyad complained that Israeli occupation and hardline policies against Palestinians have hampered the development of a sustainable political process as well as that of social and economic institutions.

He asked East Asian nations for help in a wide range of areas "to benefit from vast wealth of experiences and expertise that your countries have amassed over years of development".

"A number of you excelled and developed and moved from a state of reliance on aid, where we are today, to being in a state of being powerhouses in the economic sphere," he said.

The conference was not designed to seek fresh aid pledges, Japanese diplomats have said.

Palestinian officials meanwhile used the forum to vent their anger against Israel and urged newly re-elected Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to accept a two-state solution and return to the peace process.

"Regarding the peace process, obviously, we have been very much willing and ready to engage ourselves into a peace process with Israel," Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Maliki said after the conference.

"Netanyahu preferred building settlements over negotiating with Palestinians," he said.

"At least from our perspective, we are ready as long as Netanyahu recommits himself to a two-state solution," he said.

Maliki said the Palestinian Authority welcomed a planned visit to the region by US President Barack Obama next month, but he remained cautious about tangible and immediate progress toward peace.