For 1st time since March: Israel, PA hold meeting at ministerial level
Israel and the Palestinian Authority held their first high-level talks since Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took office in March. The meeting between Israeli Vice Prime Minister Silvan Shalom and Palestinian Economics Minister Bassem Khoury was held Wednesday at a Jerusalem hotel. It was the first Cabinet-level meeting between the Netanyahu and Abbas governments.
According to the AP, the agenda included easing restrictions on the entry of Palestinian businesspeople and VIPs to Israel, increasing Israeli meat exports to the West Bank and dairy imports from the West Bank to Israel, allowing more Palestinians to seek medical care in Israel and joint industrial parks, Israeli officials said. According to Khoury, he also raised the movement of goods into and out of the Gaza Strip.
"Our objective is economic peace," Shalom told reporters before the meeting. "That doesn't prevent political dialogue, but rather, assists it and gives it momentum."
After the meeting, Khoury stated he hoped significant improvements would follow. "We hope it will not only be words but there will also be some actions on the ground as well so we can really see the end of these measures that are stifling the growth of the Palestinian economy," he said.
The two sides agreed to meet every four to six weeks and to set up teams to handle day-to-day issues, Israeli officials said.