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EU Agree on Palestinian Aid Plan

2006-06-20

Paul Ames
June 16, 2006
BRUSSELS, Belgium (AP) — European Union leaders agreed Friday to channel aid to cash-starved Palestinians for health care, utilities and social services while still maintaining a funding freeze on the Hamas-led government.
The 25-member bloc said it “stands ready to contribute a substantial amount to the international mechanism,” meaning the money would get to ordinary Palestinians but not Hamas.
The EU was considering an initial allocation of about $126 million, spokeswoman Emma Udwin said. She said the EU wants to have the funding mechanism in place by early July.
“We Europeans are determined to play our part in preventing a humanitarian crisis in the Palestinian territories,” EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner said.
She will head to the Middle East on Monday to present the plan.
An EU statement said the plan was drawn up in consultation with the United States, Russia and the United Nations, who agreed with the EU in May that a mechanism had to be found to keep the Palestinian economy afloat after most international aid was cut off following Hamas’ January election win.
The United States and EU consider Hamas a terrorist organization.
Udwin said she expected final approval from the full Quartet group of Middle East mediators and other donors within days.
There was no mention in the statement about paying the salaries of Palestinian government workers, something Israel opposes. But it did refer to “social allowances” that the EU said would entail payments to health workers and other needy families.
“Nobody is paying wages, forget wages,” Udwin said. “There is a big difference between wage and allowance.”
The fund will be managed by the World Bank and EU, working with the office of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. His Fatah movement is Hamas’ main political rival.
EU leaders insisted there would be no contact with Hamas unless it renounces violence, recognizes Israel and respects existing peace agreements.
“There can be no business as usual with a government that has not yet accepted the fundamental principle of peace,” Ferrero-Waldner said.
The EU urged Israel to resume the transfer of more than $50 million in monthly tax revenues it collects on behalf of the Palestinians. Those revenues could be channeled through the new mechanism, the EU said.
The aid freeze has meant about 165,000 government employees, including teachers, health workers and security personnel, have not been paid in three months. In its statement, the EU urged other donors, including Arab states, to “consider early and substantial contributions.”
Source: Associated Press


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