Abbas urges Arab League to up financial aid to Palestinians

PA head tells Baghdad meeting that despite growth in recent years, economy is in difficult situation

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (photo credit: Issam Rimawi/Flash90)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (photo credit: Issam Rimawi/Flash90)

JERUSALEM (AP) — Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has urged Arab leaders gathered for a summit in Baghdad on Thursday to fulfill their standing pledges for financial aid for the Palestinians.

Donor countries have given billions of dollars to the Palestinians since 1993, but support has dropped of late. Arab leaders, in particular, have regularly failed to fulfill pledges of aid to Abbas’ Palestinian Authority, which governs the West Bank.

In Baghdad, Abbas told The Associated Press late Wednesday that he has talked to the Arab world leaders and that “there are demands related to financial support, especially supporting Jerusalem … because the PA is in a difficult financial situation.”

The Baghdad summit is expected to focus on the crisis in Syria, but Palestinian aid will also figure prominently in the talks.

Despite its growth in recent years, the Palestinian economy remains highly aid-dependent. A recent World Bank report warned of a “severe fiscal crisis” if the drop in aid continues.

In 2011, the Palestinian Authority required about $1.5 billion in budget support, the report said.

An Israeli government report this month said the PA was not economically stable enough for statehood — contradicting last year’s assertion by the International Monetary Fund that Palestinian financial institutions were ready for their own state. The Israeli report also cited a shortfall of foreign aid and lack of development in the private sector.

In the late night interview, Abbas also acknowledged — for the first time — that reconciliation efforts between his Fatah movement and its rival Hamas has reached a dead end.

He blamed Hamas for the impasse.

“The reconciliation is stuck, the questions is, why it is stuck?” he said. “We had agreed on the vision and conditions and goals for reconciliation, then it was rejected by some Hamas leaders … the ball is in their court. The minute they decide, I’m ready.”

Since 2007, the rivals have run separate governments — Abbas in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza. Several attempts to reconcile the two factions have failed. Abbas risks losing further aid if he forms a pact with Hamas, which the West considers to be a terrorist organization.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.

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