US launches $10 million water project in West Bank

Jericho (Palestinian Territories) (AFP) –


The US government on Sunday launched a $10 million project to improve access to wastewater treatment and water for Palestinian farmers in the Jericho area of the occupied West Bank.

A top aide to US President Donald Trump, Jason Greenblatt, was among officials launching the project in the historic city near the Dead Sea.

Greenblatt has been among Trump's aides seeking to restart Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. US officials have spoken of improving the Palestinian economy and infrastructure as part of their efforts.

At Sunday's event, Greenblatt did not comment on White House peace efforts, which have been met with heavy scepticism from many analysts.

He also did not speak about a unity deal signed last week between Palestinian rival factions Fatah and Hamas aimed at ending their decade-long division.

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas's Fatah is in power in the West Bank, while Islamist movement Hamas runs the Gaza Strip.

The project announced Sunday aims to increase the number of homes connected to the Jericho area's wastewater treatment plant previously built with Japanese assistance by about 10,000 residents.

That would leave some 70 percent of Jericho residents connected, according to the US consulate in Jerusalem.

Recycled wastewater would then be available to Palestinian date farmers in the area, it said.

"The US administration and President Trump personally remain committed to a just and lasting peace between Palestinians and Israelis, and a central element of that peace is a thriving economy and real opportunities for Palestinians throughout the West Bank and Gaza," US Consul General Donald Blome said.

Palestinian Water Authority chairman Mazen Ghunaim said "this project will have a positive and direct impact on creating jobs and economic growth."

Dry conditions lead to regular water shortages in the Jericho area, while Palestinians and rights groups say Israel has allocated much of the water resources in the Jordan Valley, where the city is located, to Israeli settlements.