The Mercosur trade group of four South American countries signed a free trade agreement with the Palestinian Authority on Tuesday.
AFP reported that the PA’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Riyad Al Maliki, signed the agreement with the foreign ministers of each of the core Mercosur nations -- Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay.
Diplomats have been negotiating the agreement for a year, officials told AFP. It is the first such agreement between the PA and a block of nations outside the Arab world, the report said.
At the ceremony, Al Maliki said, “We hope that (the Mercosur countries) can help us end the suffering of the Palestinian people and reach a peace agreement between Palestine and Israel.”
The Associated Press, also reporting on the agreement, quoted PA chief negotiator Saeb Erekat as calling the agreement very important to Palestinian institution-building, but complaining that Israeli controls are stifling his people’s economy.
“How can anyone plant or plan or transport if an 18-year-old kid with an Israeli jeep can prevent them from moving?” Erekat was quoted as saying.
He did not mention the fact that Israel allows the export of many agricultural products from Gaza to markets in Europe.
Recently it was announced that, in addition to the agricultural exports, Gaza will soon be able to export furniture to Europe as part of a new pilot program.
Israel allows exporting from Gaza despite rocket attacks by Gaza terrorists at Israel’s southern communities. Gaza’s Hamas terrorist rulers often claim that there is a humanitarian crisis in the area, which they claim is caused by Israel’s naval blockade in Gaza. Despite those claims, a huge luxury mall was opened last year, and several months ago Gaza even exported aid to Somalia.
Meanwhile, the business attaché in Israel’s embassy in Montevideo, Ron Gerstenfeld, told The Associated Press that the accord between the PA and the Mercosur nations “is not the best way to promote peace” in the Middle East, but said Israel respects the Mercosur nations’ decision.