S'pore to boost technical assistance to Palestinians

S'pore to boost technical assistance to Palestinians
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong places a wreath at the Mausoleum of Arafat in Ramallah on 20 April 2016. He was accompanied by Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah, Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan and Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli.
PHOTO: The Straits Times

Singapore is committed to supporting Palestinians in building their capacity and skills, and will double the sum of its enhanced technical assistance package from $5 million to $10 million.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong made this commitment at a meeting with Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah in Ramallah yesterday, PM Lee's press secretary Chang Li Lin told reporters after the meeting.

PM Lee, the first Singapore Prime Minister to visit the Palestinian Territories, also encouraged the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) to resume negotiations to find a just and durable peace in a two-state solution - with Israel and Palestine living side by side, she added.

Under the technical assistance package, Singapore has hosted study visits for Palestinian officials in such areas as education, anti-corruption reform, and economic development. Singapore will also share its experience in vocational and skills training.

"PM Hamdallah welcomed this as the Palestinians valued their friendship with Singapore," Ms Chang said. "He expressed appreciation for Singapore's assistance as education was a key focus for the Palestinians."

Palestinian news agency Wafa quoted Dr Hamdallah as telling Mr Lee: "Your country is a pioneer in the field of vocational training; we could learn a great deal from you."

He added: "We consider Singapore a model in the field of desalination and we hope to benefit from your experience in water management."

Dr Hamdallah met PM Lee at his office in the Palestinian Territories yesterday morning.

They then visited the mausoleum of the first Palestinian Authority president, Mr Yasser Arafat, where PM Lee laid a wreath.

Dr Hamdallah then hosted him to lunch. He welcomed the first visit by a Singapore prime minister and conveyed the warm greetings of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who is overseas.

Meanwhile, PM Lee invited Dr Hamdallah to visit to Singapore, which he accepted. He also reiterated a standing invitation for President Abbas to visit Singapore.

At their meeting, Dr Hamdallah briefed the Singapore delegation about the situation in the Palestinian Territories and reaffirmed the PNA's commitment to the two-state solution.

PM Lee had, at a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu the previous day, conveyed Singapore's hope that the Israelis and Palestinians can restart talks for a two-state solution.

It was a point he also made when Israel's Leader of the Opposition Isaac Herzog called on him yesterday.

Both men also exchanged views on developments in Israel and the region, Ms Chang said.

"Mr Herzog agreed that the two-state solution remains the only viable option to achieve a just and durable peace for Israel and Palestine," she added.

Yesterday, Mr Lee visited Temple Mount in Jerusalem, where Muslim leaders showed him around the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa Mosque - the third holiest site for Muslims who believe it was where Prophet Muhammad ascended to Heaven on a night journey. In the afternoon, he called on Israeli President Reuven Rivlin.

At the meeting, both men reaffirmed the long-standing and close relations between the two countries, Ms Chang said. PM Lee also expressed his appreciation to Mr Rivlin for his presence at the state funeral of founding PM Lee Kuan Yew in March last year.

Mr Lee then travelled to the Israeli city of Tel Aviv where he laid a wreath at the Rabin Memorial, built in honour of former Israeli PM Yitzhak Rabin.

Mr Rabin's historic 1993 handshake with Mr Arafat set in motion Palestinian self-rule, but he was killed in 1995 by an Israeli extremist opposed to the peace process.

Today, Mr Lee meets former Israeli prime minister Shimon Peres, who also played a key role in the peace process as foreign minister.

For that, Mr Peres, Mr Rabin and Mr Arafat received the 1994 Nobel Peace Prize .

This article was first published on April 21, 2016.
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