Donors pledge millions for the Palestinian economy
Donors have committed funds from around the world Monday for the Palestinian economy amid a renewed international push for a Palestinian state, with the European Union promising $650 million in 2008. Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad is asking for $5.6 billion over three years.
U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon urged the international community to fulfill the Palestinian needs and more. "What we must do now is work together before the end of 2008 for the creation of an independent, democratic, viable Palestinian state," French President Nicolas Sarkozy, the meeting's host, said in a speech to representatives from nearly 90 donor countries and international organizations.
Meanwhile, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said Monday that he has ruled out dialogue with Hamas and that without international support Gaza is "heading into disaster." Abbas, speaking at the conference in Paris, said Gaza Strip is already "close to catastrophe," and would head into disaster without continued international aid.
The European Union launched the day of pledges of aid by promising $650 million in 2008, EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner told The Associated Press. In all, the EU and its member states gave about $1.45 billion to the Palestinians in 2007.
Ferrero-Waldner said she couldn't say yet how much the EU would contribute in 2009 and 2010, since she didn't know what the available EU budget would be, but suggested the aid would roughly hold steady. That would make the overall EU contribution a substantial chunk of the total pledged Monday.
Ferrero-Waldner and Fayyad urged Arab states to do more. The U.S. has announced it is pledging about $555 million for 2008. However, the money includes about $400 million that the White House already has announced, but that has not been approved by Congress.
Abbas called on Israel Monday to freeze Jewish settlements "without excuses."