John Kerry unveils plan to boost Palestinian economy
John Kerry revealed his long-awaited plan for peace in the Middle East on Sunday, hinging on a $4bn (£2.6bn) investment in the Palestinian private sector.
The US secretary of state, speaking at the World Economic Forum on the Jordanian shores of the Dead Sea, told an audience including Israeli president Shimon Peres and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas that an independent Palestinian economy is essential to achieving a sustainable peace.
Speaking under the conference banner "Breaking the Impasse", Kerry announced a plan that he promised would be "bigger, bolder and more ambitious" than anything since the Oslo accords, more than 20 years ago.
Tony Blair is to lead a group of private sector leaders in devising a plan to release the Palestinian economy from its dependence on international donors. The initial findings of Blair's taskforce, Kerry boasted, were "stunning", predicting a 50% increase in Palestinian GDP over three years, a cut of two-thirds in unemployment rates and almost double the Palestinian median wage. Currently, 40% of the Palestinian economy is supplied by donor aid.
Kerry assured Abbas that the economic plan was not a substitute for a political solution, which remains the US's "top priority".
Peres, who had taken the stage just minutes before, also issued a personal plea to his Palestinian counterpart to return to the negotiations.
"Let me say to my dear friend President Abbas," Peres said, "Should we really dance around the table? Lets sit together. You'll be surprised how much can be achieved in open, direct and organised meetings."