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Germany

Germany Hosts Conference to Bolster Palestinian Security

Germany hopes donors will commit $187 million to strengthening the Palestinian Authority's police force and courts at a conference in Berlin designed to help bolster the rule of law in the Palestinian territories.

Palestinian militants from the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, a group linked to the Fatah Movement, stand on the roof of the Palestinian parliament building after taking it over in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Saturday, June 16, 2007.

An efficient security and judiciary system is seen as the cornerstone for peace in the region

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said the aim of the ministerial meeting is to provide support to the Palestinian Authority so that it is in a position to take charge of security for the Palestinian population.

Steinmeier said it was important to show the Palestinians that not only peace but also the long road towards achieving this goal paid dividends.

"The conditions for a peaceful solution are better today than they have been in the last 10 years," Steinmeier said at an Israeli-European security forum ahead of the conference.

But he added that for violence to stop and for a two-state solution to become reality it was vital that the Palestinians themselves are in a position to create more security.

"More security for the Palestinians also means more security for Israel ... Only when people in Israel and the Palestinian territories start to see an improvement in their lives will they put their trust in talks," Steinmeier said.

Security and justice the building blocks

Foreign ministers from around 20 countries are due to attend the day-long gathering at the foreign ministry, among them US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Russia's Sergei Lavrov.

Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni will be among the speakers at the meeting, which is also seeking to raise funds to modernize the 7,000-strong Palestinian police force and legal system.

Israel's Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, right, speaks with her German counterpart Frank-Walter Steinmeier

Steinmeier will welcome Israeli counterpart Tzipi Livni

Organizers said a well-functioning security system and judiciary are an important building block for a two-state solution, generally recognized as the key to ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Focus on Palestinian Authority in West Bank

The conference, which is due to be attended by 41 countries, is focused only on helping the Palestinian Authority (PA) in the West Bank and does not cover the Gaza Strip, however.

The Gaza Strip, home to 1.5 million people, has been subject to a near-total Israeli blockade since the seizure of power a year ago by the Islamist Hamas, which the international community refuses to talk to until it renounces violence and recognises Israel's right to exist.

The EU Police Mission in the Palestinian Territories (EUPOL COPPS), set up in 2005 to train the Palestinian police force, will call on donor nations gathered in Berlin to earmark $187 million dollars to help the PA over the next three years.

The organization Human Rights Watch appealed to delegates to make concrete pledges dependent on an end to excesses by Palestinian security forces.

"Donor nations should insist that during training programmes the authorities in Ramallah create a security force that is transparent, accountable and respects international norms for human rights," it said.

Following the conference, Rice and Lavrov will join international Mideast special envoy Tony Blair, EU foreign policy supremo Javier Solana and a representative of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon at a meeting of the Mideast Quartet of mediators.

Steinmeier said there were good reasons to support the positive developments of recent weeks, a reference to the Palestinian-Israeli truce in the Gaza Strip and peace talks between the Jewish state and Syria.

At the same time, there was a need for caution because past efforts towards achieving a Mideast solution had failed to bear fruit, he added.

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