World Bank should channel Palestinian aid: Chirac

28th April 2006, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, April 28, 2006 (AFP) - French President Jacques Chirac on Friday proposed the creation of a special account at the World Bank to channel international aid funds to the Palestinians and head off an impending financial meltdown in the territories.

PARIS, April 28, 2006 (AFP) - French President Jacques Chirac on Friday proposed the creation of a special account at the World Bank to channel international aid funds to the Palestinians and head off an impending financial meltdown in the territories.

The escrow account could be used to send payments directly to 160,000 Palestinian civil servants, thus bypassing the Hamas-led government which is boycotted by the international community because of its opposition to peace with Israel.

Chirac made the suggestion during talks in Paris with Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas, who is in France on the last leg of a European tour urging the resumption of aid.

Last month the 25-member European Union — the biggest donor to the Palestinians — decided to suspend non-humanitarian aid in order to put pressure on the newly constituted Hamas government to participate in peace talks.

Accord to Chirac's spokesman, the president told Abbas that "France would propose to its European and international partners... that they reflect very rapidly on a mechanism to allow the resumption of aid."

On the issue of Palestinian salaries, the president said: "We could study the urgent creation of an escrow account managed for example by the World Bank which could take in the aid funds intended to pay the salaries," the spokesman said.

Chirac said he would bring up the issue at a meeting of the so-called Middle East quartet — the EU, the United States, the United Nations and Russia — on May 9.

In a press conference after the talks, Abbas welcomed the proposal. "We hope that solutions can be quickly found because the situation is critical. We want a legal and effective mechanism which can be rapidly put into place before the situation becaomes irreversible," he said.

But in Gaza finance minister Omar Abdelrazek said that the Hamas government would not tolerate the creation of a parallel administration to handle international funds.

"In principle we don't have a problem with (the World bank idea). But we have to talk about the details and preserve the rights of the ministry of finance to control and oversee all financial procedures," he said.

A long-standing financial crisis has hit disaster level since Hamas took office last month, with Israel withholding customs duties and the European Union and United States suspending direct aid.

The Palestinian administration has been unable to pay any salaries since March, which given the heavy burden of "state" machinery in the Palestinian territories affects the livelihoods of one million people, or a quarter of the population.

Chirac called on Hamas "to rally around the positions agreed by the international community."

"It is an essential and necessary condition for the establishment of normal relations with this government. What is vital is the reestablishment of a negotiated political process so as to allow the establishment of peace between two states living side by side," he said.

Abbas repeated his commitment to a "negotiated arrangement with Israel on the basis of the 'roadmap'. It is the most effective way to reach a lasting peace."

He said that "aid to the Palestinian people must continue, especially humanitarian aid and salaries, because these are crucial and sensitive issues for our people."

Without international help "we are heading for a disaster," he said.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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