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The international community should actively assist the Palestinian National Authority
The international community should actively assist the Palestinian National Authority to build an independent and viable economy by investing in the region, a Russian deputy foreign minister said Thursday.

"Until recently economic cooperation between the international community and Palestinians was based only on donor assistance... But no economy can adequately develop only on the basis of foreign aid. We are convinced it is time to actively assist to build an independent Palestinian economy," Alexander Saltanov said addressing a Palestinian investment conference in Bethlehem.

Saltanov, who is also the Russian presidential envoy to the Middle East, heads the Russian delegation at this international conference.

"Today we can say - give Palestinians investment and they will independently build their own economy," the Russian diplomat said.

Saltanov also spoke of the necessity to form a single economic space on the Palestinian territories, which, according to him, have been "destroyed by Israel's blockade of Gaza" and other factors.

Israel imposed restrictions on essential supplies to Gaza in an attempt to pressure Hamas over rocket attacks and since the radical group, considered a terrorist organization by Israel, the U.S. and some EU states, seized control of the enclave from the pro-presidential Fatah movement in June last year.

"We [Russia] believe that a single economic space could lay a solid foundation for a viable and independent Palestinian state," Saltanov said.

Russia as a member of the quartet of Middle East mediators has offered to host a Middle East peace conference in Moscow as a follow up to last November's U.S.-sponsored meeting in Annapolis, Maryland.

Israel and the Palestinian National Authority pledged in Annapolis to resume peace talks, draft a settlement plan by late 2008 and come to terms on the form of a future independent Palestinian state. However their talks have so far made little tangible progress.


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