New international mechanism to direct aid to Palestinians
Members of the Quartet of Middle East peace brokers, which is meeting at the United Nations in New York, have decided to uphold a "temporary international mechanism" to direct aid to the Palestinians for a trial period to ease the financial crisis following the rise of power of Hamas.
The Quartet members - the European Union, United Nations, U.S. and Russia - reached a "silent agreement" to set up a trust fund that will pay the salaries of Palestinian civil servants through the office of Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas.
By this, the United States bowed to the EU pressure. "The thrust of the statement is that the international community is still trying to respond to the needs of the Palestinian people," U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told a news conference at the United Nations with other quartet members. "It is to provide assistance to the Palestinian people so they do not suffer deprivation," she added.
UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said the international mechanism to be used, which has not yet been fully decided on, should start as soon as possible and be reviewed after three months.
The initiative is meant to bypass the Hamas government and pay the salaries of 165,000 civil servants who have yet to receive payments since March.
"It is a difficult situation, but I want to say that we are not going to let the Palestinians starve," said the European Union's foreign policy chief Javier Solana.
Hours after the agreement to channel direct aid to the Palestinians, Hamas insisted it still had problems accepting Western demands on Israel. "The Quartet have conditions. They aim to push the Palestinian government to make concessions that harm [Palestinian] rights and red lines and give the [Israeli] occupation legitimacy," said Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, according to Reuters.