Palestinians Condemn US Vote that Would Cut Aid to Unilateral State
The Palestinians Thursday denounced a vote in the US Congress to stop most aid to any unilaterally declared Palestinian state, saying this was a tactic to exert pressure on them in the faltering peace process with Israel.
The US House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a bill on Wednesday that would mandate withholding diplomatic recognition and all non-humanitarian aid to the Palestinians if they declare a state without a peace deal.
"It is not right for the Americans to block the Palestinian right to have their own state," said said Ziad Abu Amr, head of the political committee of the Palestinian legislative council. "This resolution is a tactic to pressure the Palestinian side to make concessions to the Israel side.
"This resolution is proof that the Americans stand beside Israel, before Camp David, through Camp David and after Camp David," he told AFP.
He was referring to the peace summit at the US presidential retreat in Camp David that collapsed two months ago over the fate of Jerusalem, reiterating frequent Palestinian complaints that the United States was not acting as an honest broker in the negotiations.
The House voted on the bill as Israeli and Palestinian negotiators were holding separate talks with US officials aimed at breaking the impasse in efforts to forge a comprehensive accord.
"We have a major opportunity to bring a final and enduring peace to the Middle East, and legislation at this point complicates the very process we seek to conclude and makes it more difficult to reach a just and lasting peace," State Department spokesman Philip Reeker said after the vote.
Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, under heavy international pressure, earlier this month delayed a much-trumpeted statehood declaration he had vowed to make on September 13, another missed deadline for a deal.
"Our intention with this legislation is to provide a clear message to Chairman Arafat and the Palestinian Authority that they must not provoke a new cycle of violence or war in the Middle East by unilaterally declaring a Palestinian state," said Democratic Representative Jerrold Nadler, a co-sponsor of the bill -- RAMALLAH(AFP)
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