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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 condolences.

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 (European Union).

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.

En français

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