Mideast peace talks in focus at Palestinian development meet

JAKARTA - Representatives of 22 nations met in Jakarta on Saturday to discuss Palestinian development, with co-chairs Japan and Indonesia reiterating their support for a two-state solution.

The second Conference on Cooperation among East Asian Countries for Palestinian Development (CEAPAD) is aimed at boosting infrastructure and supporting the private sector in the Palestinian Territories.

But a looming deadline for a full Middle East peace deal brokered by US Secretary of State John Kerry is expected to feature prominently in talks.

"We still believe that the two-state vision can be envisaged and realised. And here I must commend the... efforts of Mr John Kerry," Palestinian prime minister Rami Hamdallah said during the conference's opening.

Kerry, who coaxed the two sides back to the negotiating table in late July after a three-year hiatus, said Wednesday a full deal would likely slip past the April 29 deadline.

The document has not yet been made public, but Hamdallah said on Friday "all issues actually have been (put) on the table".

The document is understood to include a non-binding proposal laying out guidelines for negotiating the central issues of the conflict, including such as borders, security, Jerusalem, the settlements and the right of return for Palestinian refugees.

Hamdallah expressed gratitude to donor nations, but said Israeli settlements were "severely" hampering development.

"Sixty-two per cent of all our land is still controlled by the Israeli authorities. This impedes any access we have to natural resources, and severely restricts our development," he said.

"The people of Palestine have been struggling to achieve this dream for more than five decades," Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said at the opening.

"Providing them with capacity-building programme is critical."

Yudhoyono said that Indonesia envisaged a Middle East "at peace with itself and the rest of the world" and that peace would also depend on a treaty on nuclear weapons and weapons of mass destruction.

Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida said that security in the Middle East was "by no means someone else's problem in a distant region" for Asian nations.

"I firmly believe participating countries share the common determination to assist in a Palestinian state-building that promises to bring about regional peace and stability," he said in Japanese, according to a statement.

"Such assistance will help achieve a 'two-state solution', which would see Palestine and Israel in peaceful coexistence and co-prosperity," he said.

The CEAPAD is jointly chaired by Indonesia, the Palestinian Authority and Japan.

Among attending nations are South Africa, Singapore, Australia, Brunei and Vietnam, while China's special envoy on the Middle East issue Wu Sike attended.

The conference was initiated by Japan, a major donor to the Palestinian Territories, with the first event held in Tokyo last year.

The conferences are not designed to seek fresh aid pledges, officials said, although several countries have made pledges following last year's meeting.