Notes for Remarks
to the Media by Andrew Robinson
December 14, 1995
This has been a very successful plenary of the Refugee
Working Group. The Working Group is one of five working
groups which make up the multilateral track of the
Middle East Peace Process. The work of the Group complements
and supports the efforts of the bilateral peace process
to resolve the Palestinian refugee question.
The determination of all the participants to move
the peace process forward was evident. This was the
first multilateral group to meet since the assassination
of Prime Minister Rabin and the Group expressed its
The atmosphere at the meeting was very constructive
and there was a real spirit of cooperation among the
regional parties. We saw Israelis speaking Arabic
to Palestinians who sometimes answered in Hebrew.
The head of the Palestinian delegation described
the meeting as extremely important and productive.
The head of the Israeli delegation pledged his full
cooperation with the work of the group.
The group expressed the hope that, at our next meeting,
Syria and Lebanon would be at the table.
One of the reasons for the meeting`s success has been
the superb organization and excellent facilities which
were provided for the meeting by our Swiss hosts.
Over the last two and a half days, we have tried
to address the real needs of Palestinian refugees.
The views of the Palestinian delegation and of the
other regional parties were particularly useful as
we did so.
Many of the 40 or so delegations who attended announced
a variety of projects aimed to improve the living
conditions of refugees in West Bank and Gaza, as well
as in Syria, Lebanon and Jordan.
These projects were announced according to the themes
of the working group. There are seven themes and each
has a lead country or shepherd responsible for it.
These are: Norway--Data bases; Family Reunification--France;
Human Resources Development as well as Job Creation
and Vocational training--USA; Public Health--Italy,
Child Welfare--Sweden; and Social-Economic Infrastructure
Many of the projects announced were in support of
UNRWA, including substantial contributions to the
UNRWA Peace Implementation Program. School and hospital
construction, small business programs emergency housing
facilities and improvements to infrastructure in the
camps were some of the main areas of project concentration.
Of considerable interest to the participants was
Switzerland's new mandate for the human dimension,
which extends to all working groups on the multilateral
track. The Swiss spoke to us about how their responsibility
might assist the work of the Refugee Working Group.