Kerry arrives in Cairo ahead of donors conference

Published October 12th, 2014 - 07:41 GMT

Kerry will be joining counterparts from around 50 countries for the talks, which Palestinians hope will raise $4 billion.

But it remains unclear how generous donors will be, given the lack of progress toward resolving the broader Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the risk that hostilities could erupt again, destroying whatever has been rebuilt.

“It’s fair to say there are serious questions being raised by the donors,” a State Department official told reporters, citing concerns that unless the cycle is broken they will be “back here doing the same thing again in a year or two.”

Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Al-Hamdallah has put the full cost of reconstruction at about $4 billion over three years in Gaza, where an estimated 18,000 homes were destroyed and infrastructure was badly battered during the seven-week conflict.

Kerry, who led an intensive peace effort that collapsed in April, will also use the conference to “talk about the things that we need to do to chart a different course for the future of Gaza, which includes trying to change the fundamental dynamic there,” a State Department official said.

Though Israel will not take part in the Cairo meetings, one US official said: “We’re asking the Israelis to continue to do what they’ve been doing in terms of facilitating humanitarian assistance” to the Gaza Strip.

While Gaza remains hemmed in by an Israeli-Egyptian blockade, Israel agreed to take steps to ease some restrictions on the coastal strip under a ceasefire deal in late August.

The war, which began in July with Israel saying it was determined to put an end to rocket fire from Gaza, left more than 2,100 Palestinians dead, most of them civilians. Sixty-seven Israeli soldiers and six civilians were also killed.

Kerry plans to meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Cairo and will seek to dissuade him from “very destabilising” diplomatic moves, one US official said. The Palestinians have threatened to seek membership in the International Criminal Court as a forum to accuse Israel of war crimes.

But US officials made clear they were encouraged by efforts by Abbas’s government, which rules in the occupied West Bank while Hamas holds sway in Gaza, to extend authority to the strip under aunity deal with the militant group, which Israel and the United States consider a terrorist organisation.

Kerry is also expected to meet with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and the country’s foreign minister Sameh Shoukri during his brief, 24-hour stay.

Reconstruction, however, will be the focus of the conference, which has been co-sponsored by Egypt and Norway in cooperation with the United Nations, European Union and Arab League. Washington announced $118 million in humanitarian assistance for Gaza in September, and Saudi Arabia has also pledged funds.

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