By John Irish
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Group of Eight foreign ministers agreed on Tuesday to quickly supply economic and political aid to five Arab governments in return for commitments they would pursue democratic reforms.
The so-called Deauville partnership, which also includes Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey as well as international organizations such the International Monetary Fund, has so far pledged about $80 billion in financing to Tunisia, Egypt, Morocco and Jordan over the next two years.
Speaking after meeting on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe, said the partnership would need to be "genuine, comprehensive and immediately operational" for it to succeed.
"The transition and reforms must be carried out by the countries that are in the partnership," he said.
The Deauville initiative was set up under France's G8 presidency to help countries swept up in the "Arab Spring" foster democratic reforms by making aid and development credits conditional on political and economic reforms.
"It offers tremendous hope for democracy, rule of law, stability, peace and a better future, but it also harbors risks," Juppe said. "If reform is too long in coming then there is the threat of extremism."
Each of the countries submitted their plan of action, which will focus on strengthening the rule of law, supporting civil societies, developing education, speeding up economic development and enhancing the countries' regional and global integration.
Libya has now also been brought into the partnership, although it will not benefit from financial assistance for now after some of the country's frozen assets were unblocked.
International financial institutions have warned of the challenges faced by Arab Spring countries trying to tap external finance while faced with high-risk perceptions and social and financial strains at home.
Officials have called for enhanced access to developed country markets for North African and Middle Eastern products and labor to avoid aid dependency and help build up the private sector.
"Our people have high hopes and need to see results on the ground," said Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohamed Kamel Amr.
Juppe said the Deauville program would be enduring and aim to include as much of the international community as possible. Progress would be monitored on a regular basis by G8 foreign and finance ministers.
"Each situation is a separate case and it's up to each of the countries to define their action plan," Juppe said. "We are not here to impose on them."
The ministers will next take stock of developments in the region at a summit in Kuwait in November followed by an official meeting of the Deauville partners when the United States becomes chair of the G8 next year.
(Editing by Eric Walsh)