Leaders and peacemakers meet in Berlin to plot Palestianian future

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Top diplomats, including German Foreign Minister Frank Walter Steinmeier and EU envoy Tony Blair, have met in Berlin to discuss the development of a self supporting Palestinian state

Berlin -- Foreign ministers from around 20 countries gathered in Berlin on Tuesday for a conference designed to help Palestinians prepare for the day they take on responsibility for their own state.

Efforts by the Palestinian Authority to modernize its police force and judicial system are the focal point of the gathering hosted by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and her foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

Organizers hope the Conference in Support of Palestinian Civil Security and the Rule of Law will raise 183.6 million dollars over the next three years for police training, equipment and judicial projects in the West Bank.

Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Jordanian Foreign Minister Salah Bashir are among those attending, but Syria has not sent a delegation.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Arab League Secretary General Amr Musa and European Union Mideast envoy Tony Blair will also be present.

Following the conference, Rice, Lavrov and Blair will join EU foreign policy supremo Javier Solana and a representative of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon at a meeting of the Mideast Quartet of mediators.

The gathering in the German capital comes in the wake of a major donors' conference in Paris in December, which raised 7.4 billion dollars in aid for the cash-starved Palestinians.

Some of the funds pledged in Berlin will go to expanding the role of the European Union mission helping the Palestinian Authority reform and retrain its 7,000-strong police force.

Currently there are 33 EUPOL COPPS police advisers in the West Bank and the number could soon by augmented by 20 legal experts, diplomats said.

Steinmeier hopes the conference will a send a positive signal to the region and make clear to the Palestinians that not only peace but also the long road towards achieving this goal pays dividends.

"Security in the Palestinian territories is also a contribution towards security in Israel," he said in an interview with German national broadcaster ARD on Monday. DPA

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