Kerry: U.S. continues to boost Palestinian economy

Ron Kampeas

WASHINGTON (JTA) — The Obama administration remains committed to growing the Palestinian economy in the absence of a peace process, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said.

“The ultimate barrier to opportunity is the absence of peace,” Kerry said Monday, addressing the Middle East Commerce Center, a regional grouping of private business groups that has as an affiliate the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

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“There is no more obvious a victim of regional tensions than the Palestinians,” he said. “Despite the fighting this summer in Gaza and recent violence in Jerusalem, the United States remains hopeful about growing the Palestinian economy and creating more jobs for its people.”

The conference, held at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce building in downtown Washington, included a session on bolstering the Palestinian economy, and Kerry said that the U.S. consul-general in Jerusalem would meet at the conference with U.S. and Palestinian businessmen to discuss investment.

He said that the State Department had studied the prospects for growing the Palestinian economy.

“We looked at infrastructure. We looked at education. We looked at housing. We looked at the communications, at energy, at agriculture,” Kerry said. “And above all, we looked at tourism, the remarkable possibilities of this unbelievable area, all of it – Jordan, Syria, Israel, the West Bank, a future Palestine, Egypt, all through the region. Imagine if that were free and open to the tourists of the world.”

Represented at the dinner in Washington were delegations from Egypt, Israel, Jordan, the Palestinian Authority, and Turkey.