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15th Apr 2024

Palestinian finance minister presses EU on financial aid

Palestinian finance minister Salam Fayyad told the European Union on Wednesday (11 April) that €1 billion of international aid was needed this year if a humanitarian crisis among Palestinian people is to be avoided.

"This is assistance we need to get back on our feet," said the minister adding "These are very difficult times for the Palestinian people."

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He warned there would be a "devastating" outcome if the international community did not put its hands in its pockets for the Palestinians.

For its part, the EU praised Mr Fayyad's personal commitment to peace but made it clear there would be no sudden change in its policies towards the Unity government, formed last month.

The Unity government consists of the moderate Fatah movement and the militant Hamas group, which the EU considers a terrorist organisation.

The EU was the biggest aid donor to the Palestinian government until Hamas was elected into power in March 2006.

The Middle East Quartet - the EU, the US, the UN and Russia - then suspended direct aid to the Palestinian Authority.

Bypassing the government, the EU now pays millions of euros via the Temporary International Mechanism (TIM).

External relations commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner made it clear this mechanism would stay in place for as long as necessary – last year the EU put €700 million through the system which assists the neediest people.

"I made it clear that possible reengagement does not mean resuming payments overnight," said Ms Ferrero-Waldner in Brussels on Wednesday after meeting Mr Fayyad.

Mr Fayyad won some concessions on technical assistance for his ministry but Ms Ferrero-Waldner repeated the international demands that the Hamas group needs to fulfil before bloc will engage with it.

She said that until Hamas recognises Israel's right to exist, renounces violence and adheres to former agreements then the EU will only deal with what it considers to be pro-Western members of the government.

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