Europe's special envoy to the Middle East, Miguel Angel Moratinos, called on Arab countries Thursday, March 15, to work with the European Union to give financial aid to the Palestinian Authority.
He also said that a second meeting for economic support to Lebanon would be held with international institutions and donors before the summer.
An initial meeting was held at the Elysee presidential palace in Paris at the end of February, arranged by French President Jacques Chirac, bringing together Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, the presidents of the World Bank and European Commission James Wolfensohn and Romano Prodi, the vice-president of the European Investment Bank, Francis Mayer, and French Economy and Finance Minister Laurent Fabius.
The international organizations decided then to stump up €500 million ($465 million) to bolster Lebanon's economic and privatization programs.
Moratinos told journalists after meeting Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri that he had been charged with pursuing contacts with international donors to fix up a second conference to support the efforts of the Lebanese government aimed at redressing the country's economic woes, after nearly three years of stagnation and negative growth.
He said he was in contact with European Commission President Romano Prodi and officials from the World Bank.
Moratinos also met with Lebanese President Emile Lahoud as part of his trip around the region, saying in a statement after the talks that it was "in the interests of the EU to see Arab countries joining with Europe in an effort to provide economic support to the Palestinian authority."
"The joint efforts of the EU and the Arab countries should restore hope of a revitalization of Palestinian institutions and underwrite material and moral backing for the population," he said.
Palestinian minister for international cooperation Nabil Shaath said Tuesday that the "European Union had promised financial aid of $60 million."
A European Union source said that the economic support for the Palestinians could be fine-tuned during a conference of donor countries as soon as this month.
According to the Palestinian finance minister, Mohammed Zuhdi Nashashibi, the Palestinians will seek emergency aid of $320 million from the Arab world at the Arab summit in Amman on March 27, from a promised fund of one billion dollars emanating from the extraordinary Arab summit in Cairo, October 21 to 22. So far, a mere $15 million have been forthcoming.
Last month, the United Nations estimated that the Palestinian economy had lost more than a billion dollars since the beginning of the intifada, or uprising against Israeli occupation, which started September 28. — (AFP, Beirut)
© Agence France Presse 2001
© 2001 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)