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An Important Milestone for the Industry-for-Peace Initiative
05/01/2006 - Viewed 1622 times

The Industry for Peace Initiative, being executed by TEPAV, bore a very important fruit with the signing of two key political documents in Ramallah and Jerusalem on 4-5 January, 2006. Thanks to the support of the Palestinian, Israeli, and Turkish Governments, as well as the International Community, the Project on the Revitalization of the Erez Industrial Estate has now officially started.

The idea to revitalize the Estate was first brought to the table on the second meeting of the Ankara Forum on 8 June 2005. The idea became a concrete project rather quickly.

The Erez Industrial Estate (now known as the Palestinian Industrial Free Zone) covers 600 acres of land, located on the very Northern tip of Gaza. Up until the Israeli disengagement of August 2005, the Estate was being operated by the Israelis. Nearly 6000 Palestinians were employed by around 200 businesses, half of which were owned by Israeli companies. Almost all of the products manufactured there headed to the Israeli market and exported to third countries via Israel. But with the Israeli withdrawal, businesses were vacated and the door to the Israeli market was closed shut. As a result, employment dropped to nil and almost all firms abandoned the area.

The revitalization of Erez which is strategically located on the Israeli-Palestinian border has been the centerpiece of the Ankara Forum. As a result of the technical work and political meetings, a three-pronged program was set under the leadership of TOBB-BIS. The first phase, which entailed obtaining the necessary political decisions in Palestine and Israel has been completed as of January 4 and 5, 2005. Turkish Foreign Affairs Ministers H.E. Abdullah Gül has signed Joint Declarations with the Israeli and Palestinian Governments.

The second phase, which has immediately started upon the taking of political decisions, will be the planning and execution of a construction project on the Estate. This will include the building of administrative and social facilities, infrastructure and the partial reconstruction and repair of the estate's manufacturing facilities. Furthermore, a security firm will be contracted to ensure that security measures will meet Palestinian and Israeli standards. Based on demand, the initial land of 600 acres will be expanded to 1500 acres with all the relevant infrastructural construction.

The above mentioned second phase will be conducted in conjunction with the third phase which will focus on investment promotion. Through support obtained from international institutions and organizations such as the EU, the World Bank, IFC, MIGA, OPIC etc, investment incentives will be steered to local investors. Local investment opportunities will be introduced to Turkish and other foreign investors through proactive investment promotions. In addition, Palestinian businessmen who were operating in the area prior to the Israeli withdrawal will be invited back.

Upon the signing of the Joint Declarations, it is planned to have the first phase of construction to be completed by June 2006.

Related Article by Tepav | Epri Director Güven Sak

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