US and Palestinian officials met virtually Tuesday for the relaunching of the “US-Palestinian Economic Dialogue,” which failed to meet during the Trump administration when relations between Washington and Ramallah deteriorated to an all-time low.
The officials from a wide range of government offices on both sides discussed “infrastructure development, access to US markets, US regulations, free trade, financial issues, renewable energy and environmental initiatives, connecting Palestinian and American businesses, and addressing obstacles to Palestinian economic development,” a statement from the State Department said.
It marked the latest step by the Biden administration to boost ties with the Palestinians. Since entering office last January, US President Joe Biden has renewed hundreds of millions of dollars in humanitarian aid to the West Bank, Gaza Strip and the UN agency for Palestinian refugees UNRWA. It has also re-established official ties with Ramallah, which all but severed relations with Washington after former president Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in late 2017.
Biden officials have been holding regular meetings with their Palestinian counterparts, and the Palestinian Authority has even begun engaging with the US Embassy in Jerusalem following an announcement by the Biden administration that it would reopen the US consulate in the city, which long served as the de-facto mission to the Palestinians before it was shuttered by Trump in 2019.
Israel has pushed back on the plan and the White House has yet to present a timeline of when it hopes to see it through. Vice President Kamala Harris also pledged during the campaign that the administration would reopen the PLO diplomatic office in Washington. That too has yet to be actualized though.
Tuesday’s USPED meeting — the first in five years — saw participants pledge to “expand and deepen [US-Palestinian] cooperation and coordination across a range of sectors,” the State Department said.
“Growing the Palestinian economy will also play a critical role in advancing our overarching political goal: a negotiated two-state solution, with a viable Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security with Israel,” read a statement from US Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs Yael Lempert, who led the US side of the dialogue.
Lempert was joined by US Deputy Assistant Secretary for Israel and Palestinian Affairs Hady Amr, US Palestinian Affairs Unit Chief George Noll and Deputy Assistant Secretary for Treasury Eric Meyer among others.
The Palestinian side was led by PA Economy Minister Khaled Al-Osaily and also included Information Technology Minister and Communication Ishaq Sider, Palestine Monetary Authority Governor Feras Melhem and Palestinian Energy & Natural Resources Authority chairman Zafer Melhem.