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24 Jun, 2008 20:58

Moscow equips Palestinians as aid pours in

Governments around the world have promised to give at least $US 200 million to the Palestinian autonomy to strengthen its police force and justice system. Security in the region has been the focus of an international con

Russia is ready to provide 50 armoured vehicles and two helicopters to Palestine, according to Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

International leaders say they are trying to build the Palestinian state from the ground up. An effective police force and independent courts are key steps.

It is hoped enforcing the rule of law will reduce militancy and make life easier for ordinary Palestinians.

It should also ease Israeli concerns. The country’s leaders are reluctant to proceed with peace talks, or to remove checkpoints on the West Bank until Israel has been given guarantees that the area will not become into enemy territory.

Tony Blair, the Quartet’s special envoy, said the measures were not a substitute for political progress and negotiations, but will rather be an aid to them.

“Enhanced security capability for the Palestinians does enhance the opportunity to negotiate successfully the two states solution,” he said.

Many of the initiatives have been piloted in the Palestinian city of Jenin. Radical groups claim to have disarmed and the dismantling of checkpoints has brought an economic revival.

But not everyone is convinced.

“Security, law and order alone – whatever the guaranties – without moving seriously towards a solution will not last,” said Amr Moussa the Secretary General of the League of Arab States.

Palestinian leaders complain about Israeli settlements on their land and frequent military incursions.

The issue of Gaza remains thorny too. The Strip is under the control of radical Islamic group Hamas, following a power struggle last year.

Most of the international community will not negotiate with Hamas, labelling it a terrorist organisation, but it represents a large proportion of the Palestinian people.

The target of laying down the groundwork for an independent Palestinian state within a year, set at the Annapolis conference last November, appears ambitious. Another major conference in Moscow will be the next major juncture.

Whatever the reservations, the mood in Berlin is optimistic., but any gains made in the short term can always be derailed by the longstanding disagreements between the key players.