Japan pledges $200 million in aid for Palestinians

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Japan pledged more than $200 million in aid Saturday to help the Palestinian Authority, as representatives from 22 nations reiterated their support of the Palestinians' quest for their own state.

The pledge was announced by Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida at the second Conference on Cooperation among East Asian Countries for Palestinian Development, held in the Indonesian capital of Jakarta.

Kishida said the first disbursement of the aid — about $62 million — was expected later this month.

Ministers and high-ranking officials from 22 countries and five international organizations participated in the one-day conference, which was jointly chaired by Indonesia, the Palestinian Authority and Japan.

The conference agreed to expand the number of participants and encourage greater engagement of civil societies in East Asia to assist the Palestinians.

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono expressed hope that "universal recognition of Palestine as an independent and sovereign state and as a full member state of the United Nations" would eventually be achieved.

"We can make this happen if we redouble our effort to support them in nation and state building," Yudhoyono said.

A joint statement issued at the conclusion the conference said the participants agreed to encourage greater engagement of civil society and nongovernment organizations in East Asian countries.

The statement also said participant countries and international organizations had pledged $210 million to the Palestinians since last year's conference, held in Tokyo.

The United Nations voted overwhelmingly last year to recognize a Palestinian state, but the Palestinians still face limitations in controlling their borders and airspace and in trade, and have no unified army or police.

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