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Palestinian PM urges West not to bypass Hamas govt

Written by: Staff

Gaza, May 14 Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh today called on West Asia peace brokers to deal directly with the Hamas-led government, saying Palestinians cannot afford to wait weeks for a new aid mechanism that bypasses Hamas.

''We will not surrender to the measures by the Quartet,'' said Haniyeh, a leader of the militant group Hamas which formed a government after winning a January parliamentary election.

''It is clear that these measures will take weeks and our Palestinian people will not be able to wait long to deal with this crisis,'' Haniyeh said. ''We believe that the economic and political siege aims to force the Palestinian government to make political concessions.'' ''I say once more, and I will continue to say, this government will not make political concessions that are harmful to Palestinian rights,'' he added. ''And all parties should deal in the same realistic way and deal directly with the Palestinian elected government.'' The Quartet of international mediators the United States, Russia, European Union and the United Nations agreed last Tuesday to create the new mechanism for funnelling funds to the Palestinians and will run it for a three-month trial period.

Led by the United States, major Western donors had imposed a foreign aid freeze, demanding that Hamas recognise Israel, renounce violence and embrace existing interim Israeli-Palestinian peace deals.

The Palestinian Authority is 1.3 billion dollars in debt and has no income to pay long overdue salaries to 165,000 government employees, deepening economic hardship in the occupied West Bank and in the Gaza Strip.

Under the proposed Quartet mechanism, which Western diplomats say may not be up-and-running until the end of June, a trust fund would funnel aid to key sectors like health and education, bypassing the Hamas-led government. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's office would serve as the go-between.

But diplomats say U.S. objections to including salary payments as part of the new aid programme could make it impossible to reverse a steep drop in living standards even if supplies of food and medicine increase.


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