U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, center, Israeli President Shimon Peres, right, and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas all shake hands during the World Economic Forum on the Middle East and North Africa at the King Hussein Convention Centre at the Dead Sea in Jordan Sunday May 26, 2013. (AP Photo/Pool, Jim Young)
SOUTHERN SHUNEH, Jordan (AP) — Secretary of State John Kerry said Sunday he believes a plan is emerging that could expand the Palestinian economy by up to 50 percent in the next three years.
It could also cut unemployment by almost two-thirds and average wages could jump 40 percent, he said. But Kerry said it all depends on parallel progress on peace between Israel and the Palestinians.
Kerry has been working with former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and global business leaders to devise economic plans to revitalize the Palestinian economy. There were few specific details offered.
Kerry spoke at a business conference in Jordan alongside Israeli President Shimon Peres and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
Kerry called the plan "transformative" and "different than anything we've done before."
He was to meet later Sunday in Amman with Blair, American hedge fund investor Tim Collins and the foreign ministers of Jordan and the United Arab Emirates.
The plan is expected to address tourism, construction, light manufacturing, agriculture and communications opportunities.
Kerry said Palestinian agriculture production could double or triple. Tourism could triple, and 100,000 new homes, many of them energy efficient, could be built in the next three years.
Kerry acknowledged the plan offers a very optimistic vision for a region that has suffered through decades of conflict, and where peace prospects remain dim.
But he insisted: "We know it can be done."
He said Netanyahu and Abbas support the plan. He said economic plans won't take hold unless Israel and the Palestinians make headway on restarting peace talks, however.
Kerry has been trying over the last two months to rejuvenate the peace process. He hasn't made any tangible success so far, but insists he is engaged in productive talks with both sides.