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European nations in accord with Palestinians on trade

BRUSSELS, Feb. 25 (JTA) — The European Union has signed a trade and cooperation accord with the Palestinian Authority. “This is very important for the Palestinian people,” said Palestinian Authority leader Yasser Arafat. “With this we accept the economic, political and moral significance of the agreement between Europe and the Palestinian people.” Under the accord, the Palestinians are recognized as full partners of the European Union. Several Mediterranean countries, including Israel, have similar association accords with the 15-member European Union. The agreement, which covers a five-year period, offers enhanced economic cooperation, including reduced tariffs for Palestinian exports to E.U. member-states. The Palestinians have been granted a maximum five-year period to eliminate all restrictions and tariffs on imports from Europe. However, the Palestinians have complained about the difficulties they encounter in exporting their goods to Europe. “How can we have a country on the Mediterranean without a port?” said Arafat during a Monday news conference here. “How can we have an authority without an airport?” The question of opening of a Palestinian airport in Gaza, as well as construction of a seaport, are still before Israeli and Palestinian negotiators. The European Union has been the leading financial supporter of the Palestinian Authority. European aid has gone to education, infrastructure development and the administration in the Palestinian self-rule areas.

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