Israeli media sources reported Thursday that Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Jordan agreed on a plan to build an agro-industrial park in the West Bank, on Wednesday. This comes as part of efforts backed by Japan to promote economic co-operation and development in the Middle East.At the end of a two-day conference in Tokyo, which was attended by senior Israeli, Palestinian and Jordanian officials, Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Aso said that Japan will dispatch a research team later this month to select possible sites for the park. This conference was held as a means of ‘confidence-building’, and is the latest attempt by Japan to play a mediating role in the regional peace process.
A timeframe or cost estimate for the project was not issued by the Foreign Ministry, which stated that Japan would await the findings of the research team before making decisions on specific elements of the project.
According to Israeli media sources, a Foreign Ministry official stated that the agro-industrial park would be built near the eastern West Bank city of Jericho and process agricultural products from the Palestinian territories. Much of the funding for the park would come from Japanese development assistance.
The Official (under anonymity) reportedly stated that Palestinians from Jericho would be employed in the park; Israel would ensure the park’s security and share technical expertise, while the finished products would be shipped to Jordan.
Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Aso stated that ‘Japan does not believe that realizing this vision alone will bring peace to the Middle East … but we are prepared to work with other countries to achieve that peace.’ Senior officials from the Mideast parties applauded Japan’s plan, and the Israeli vice-Premier Shimon Peres said that ‘Jordanians, Palestinians, and Israelis, we shall work together’.
Japan has friendly ties with Arab countries and relies heavily on Middle Eastern oil. It has hosted confidence-building conferences between Israelis and Palestinians twice before, in 2003 and 2004.