Belgium backs down on freezing Palestinian aid
3 February 2006, BRUSSELS — Belgium has decided against freezing humanitarian aid for the Palestinian territories after the election victory of militant group Hamas, Overseas Development Minister Armand De Decker said.
3 February 2006
BRUSSELS — Belgium has decided against freezing humanitarian aid for the Palestinian territories after the election victory of militant group Hamas, Overseas Development Minister Armand De Decker said.
Reports emerged in the Francophone media this week that De Decker had blocked two new aid projects for the Palestinian territories.
However, politicians Marie Nagy (green Ecolo), Karine Lalieux (Socialist PS) and Geert Lambert (left-wing Spirit) said the decision was premature given the fact a new Palestinian government had not been formed.
The politicians urged De Decker to act with caution, wary that Iran might step in to fill the gap if the EU withdraws support for the Palestinians, newspaper 'De Tijd' reported on Friday.
In response, De Decker stressed that annual Belgian aid to the Palestinian territories had increased in recent years from EUR 4 million to EUR 10 million and that currently, there are 11 projects being carried out accounting for EUR 23 million in aid.
The projects involve the supply of electricity, the construction of schools and laboratories, assistance to municipal authorities and so forth.
Of the two new aid projects in question, De Decker has since said a blockade on one if them had been lifted. It involves assistance to the Palestinian Planning Ministry.
The decision came after the European Commission's foreign affairs office said it would continue to support the current Palestinian Authority.
The first phase of the second project — concerning the supply of electricity — is still being carried out.
However, De Decker said a decision had been made to temporarily — and he stressed temporarily — to postpone the second phase, which was meant to start next year and conclude in 2010.
De Decker said the big question now is whether Hamas will distance itself from violence and officially recognise the state of Israel.
But despite his response, politicians Nagy, Lalieux and Lambert remained critical of De Decker, claiming he prematurely punished the Palestinian Authority like a child who might secretly steal a cookie.
[Copyright Expatica News 2006]
Subject: Belgian news