UK minister calls for more int'l aid for Palestinians
Palestine-UK, Politics, 5/15/2007
New cash from international donors is urgently needed to help plug a shortfall in Palestinian funding and avert a humanitarian crisis in the occupied territories, International Development Secretary Hilary Benn warned Monday.
"The situation for Palestinians is very difficult. A quarter of households do not have reasonable access to water and the economy is still shrinking, although at a much slower rate," Benn said.
In a written parliamentary statement, he announced that the UK was pledging to increase its total aid commitment by 3 million pounds ($ 6 million) to 15 million pounds through the Temporary International Mechanism (TIM) and stood ready to do more.
His call came as EU foreign ministers were to discuss aid being channeled through the TIM that was set up last July after a boycott was imposed on the Palestinian government following the election of Hamas.
Benn, who is expected to stand for deputy Labor leader, warned that there was an estimated shortfall of over dlrs 200 m in the TIM but said it could be quickly reduced if donors announced new pledges to support Palestinian livelihoods and boost the economy.
He also said that Israel "must release the remaining Palestinian funds which they are withholding," saying it was a vital lifeline for tens of thousands of workers and their families who are keeping hospitals, schools and other public services running without full pay for over a year.
"Last year saw an increase in EU aid to the Palestinian people, but more aid is needed to continue paying allowances to PA workers and to the poorest and most vulnerable Palestinians," the international development secretary said.
He insisted that the UK wanted to resume direct aid to the Palestinian Authority as soon it was confident that the national unity government commits to the Quartet's demands of giving up violence, recognizing Israel and signing up to previous peace deals.
His call comes after the international aid agency, Oxfam, urged the EU last month to end the its year-long economic boycott of the Palestinian government by restoring aid.
"Europe's foreign ministers should not miss the opportunity to restore the faith of the Palestinian people in the Europeans' role as an honest broker," it said.
Britain's International Development Committee also called for an end to international financial sanctions against the Hamas-led government in February following the agreement to form a national unity government but this was rejected by the UK government.
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