US Secretary of State Colin Powell on Tuesday, March 6, said he appreciated the "generous" financial support, which the EU had given the Palestinian Authority. Powell made the comments after attending the semi-annual US-EU foreign ministers meeting in Washington.
He expressed US "appreciation of the EU for its generous budgetary support to the Palestinian authority" — which has been faced with deepening economic difficulties since the clashes with Israeli forces began in September.
However Powell did not say whether Washington also planned to increase its financial support for the Palestinian Authority (PA) — as the European Union would like it to do. He said there had been a "good discussion on the Middle East" at the meeting with EU ministers.
The EU and the United States were in "strong agreement on all points" with respect to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, he said. There was agreement that "the violence must end immediately, and both sides must do all they can to accomplish this," Powell added.
"We also call for an end to incitement, and the easing of the restrictions on economic activities," he said, referring to the blocking by the Israeli authorities of payments due to the PA since September.
Powell was accompanied as he spoke to reporters by Anna Lindh, foreign minister of Sweden, the country which currently occupies the rotating EU presidency.
Last week, EU foreign ministers meeting in Brussels expressed concern about a possible "economic and institutional collapse" in the Palestinian territories. They suggested the PA should organize an international donors conference, to which the EU would "encourage ... donors to pledge funding in support of the Palestinian budget."
The EU is currently the leading contributor of funds to the PA. In December it contributed €27.5 million ($26 million) and in January €30 million ($28 million). The United States in 2000 contributed $485 million of financial aid to the Palestinians and this year this contribution is set to fall to $100 million, according to State Department officials.
In January, in response to the PA's financial difficulties, the United States also released $57 million of emergency funding, to be channeled via non-governmental organizations into a variety of projects, including for health, refugees and municipal services, the State Department said. — (AFP, Washington)
© Agence France Presse 2001
© 2001 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)