02 Mar 2009
MFA Press Release: Statement by Senior Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Zainul Abidin Rasheed at the International Conference in Support of the Palestinian Economy for the Reconstruction of Gaza in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, 2 March 2009
Singapore strongly supports President Mubarak's initiative to convene today's conference and the intense effort to secure a durable ceasefire and Palestinian reconciliation, without which it would be futile to talk about reconstruction in Gaza. We urge all parties concerned to reach an agreement that would serve the best long term interests for both the Palestinian and Israeli peoples.
2 The humanitarian plight of Palestinians in Gaza has reached the living rooms of people from all around the world. We were deeply saddened by the civilian casualties. While we understand the legitimate right of Israel to self defence, we were dismayed by Israel's disproportionate use of force. However, we have to be clear-eyed about what is needed to give all Palestinians hope for a better future. A durable and comprehensive peace in the Middle East is possible only if there are viable and stable partners on both sides who are sincerely committed to a two-state solution. Singapore has consistently supported a two-state solution with the Palestinians having their own sovereign state on the West Bank and in Gaza. Given recent events, it is easy to be pessimistic and the obstacles to peace may appear insurmountable. But there is no other alternative. Violence and bloodshed cannot be an answer for either side in this conflict. We urge the incoming Israeli Government and the leadership of the Palestinian National Authority to resume a comprehensive dialogue to make concrete progress towards realising a two-state solution. We believe that this goal is equally shared by many delegations present in Sharm El Sheikh today.
3 Singapore remains deeply concerned over the current humanitarian situation in Gaza and supports the international community's efforts at alleviating the situation there. In response to the Emergency Appeal for Gaza launched by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Geneva in February 2009, the Singapore Government had contributed US$50,000. This was in addition to donations amounting to more than US$200,000 raised by ordinary Singaporeans for relief efforts in Gaza.
4 The rebuilding of the Palestinian economy in Gaza cannot take place without also the rebuilding of proper institutions and the capacity to provide essential services such as education, healthcare and jobs. Singapore stands prepared to share our experiences and expertise in areas that might be relevant. I have the honour to renew Singapore's commitment to design a special S$1 million technical assistance package to help train Palestinian officials which was tabled at the Paris Donors Conference in December 2007. We have identified 23 relevant training courses under our Singapore Cooperation Programme and Asia Middle East Dialogue training centres covering areas such as public administration, governance and law, information and communication technology, economic development and trade promotion. We hope that the Palestinian National Authority will find the courses useful and constructive in their crucial capacity-building process.
5 Let me end by joining my colleagues in expressing our sincere appreciation to the co-chairs Egypt and Norway for their capable leadership of this Conference as we collectively address the serious challenge of building an enduring and comprehensive peace in the Middle East.
6 Thank you.
. . . . .