Development cooperation and Middle East issues were the main themes discussed during a four-day visit paid by Undersecretary of State Konrad Pawlik to Israel and Palestine on 24-27 August.
Deputy Minister Konrad Pawlik met with Gil Haskel, Head of Israel’s Agency for International Development Cooperation (MASHAV) and Ilan Fluss, Deputy Director of MASHAV at the Israeli MFA to discuss issues relating to establishing Polish-Israeli cooperation in development and humanitarian assistance. In 2016, Poland will begin implementing its second multiannual development cooperation programme. “We want Polish aid to become more focused. In the new perspective, we have reduced the number of geographical priorities from 20 to 10,” noted Poland’s deputy foreign minister. During the meeting, its participants expressed readiness and willingness to carry out joint projects in selected and overlapping areas and priority countries.
Deputy Minister Pawlik held political consultations in the Israeli MFA with Alon Ushpiz, Deputy Director of the Political Affairs Directorate, Eran Lerman, Deputy Head of the Israeli National Security Council, Amir Weissbrod, Head of the MFA’s Bureau for Middle East Affairs, and Zvi Rav-Ner, Deputy Director for Eurasia. They discussed the developments in Syria, the so-called Islamic State and the region’s future. They also talked about the situation in eastern Ukraine.
During his visit to Palestine, Deputy Minister Konrad Pawlik met with representatives of the Palestinian Authority: Riyad al-Maliki, the foreign affairs minister, and Majdi al-Khaldi, chief of Staff to President Abbas. “For more than a decade, Palestine has been a priority country for Polish development assistance, a very important element in building Polish-Palestinian relations,” said Deputy Minister Pawlik. He used the opportunity to recall that 10 years ago Poland established a Representation to the Palestinian National Authority.
Poland’s deputy foreign minister also met with representatives of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), Uta Böllhoff, Director of External Relations and Communications and Christer Nordahl, Acting Director of Operations in Gaza. They discussed assistance to Palestinian refugees, the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. “Poland fully supports and appreciates the work done by UNRWA,” underscored Konrad Pawlik. “In spite of the humanitarian crisis enveloping Syria and neighbouring countries, we have not forgotten about the plight of the Palestinian refugees in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip,” added the deputy minister. Since 2004, Poland has transferred over USD 1.5 million to UNRWA and we are continuing our support all the time. During his meeting with UNRWA officers, Deputy Minister Pawlik pledged a PLN 500,00 contribution to the organisation’s general budget to be made by Poland.
The launch of a development aid project for a refugee camp in Jalazone near Ramallah was an important element of the visit. Polish Aid financed the purchase of educational aids and the construction of a space for games and play adapted to the needs of children on the premises of a pre-school centre. Deputy Minister Pawlik also visited a clinic in Darraj, in the Gaza Strip, where a Polish-Czech project supporting antenatal care facility is implemented (with purchases of medical equipment and basic necessities, among others).
During his visit, Deputy Minister Konrad Pawlik laid a wreath in the Hall of Remembrance at the Yad Vashem. Acting on behalf of the President of the Republic of Poland, the deputy minister decorated the minister of information Mahmoud Khalefa with the Knight Cross of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland for his distinguished contribution to Polish-Palestinian cultural relations.