'Palestinian aid mechanism may be ready in week'
Kuwait, Jun 4: A new international aid mechanism for the Palestinians agreed last month by the 'Quartet' group of West Asia mediators could be finalised in as little as a week, US Assistant Secretary of State David Welch said yesterday.
''I believe it will be completed maybe within the next seven days or maybe at most three weeks. I'm confident we will arrive at this understanding,'' said Welch, who is visiting Kuwait as part of a tour to include Qatar, Egypt, Israel and the Palestinian territories.
He said the Quartet of the United States, European Union, Russia and the United Nations was working on the details of the mechanism to funnel aid to Gaza and the West Bank, while bypassing the Hamas-led government. Washington calls the Palestinian militant group a terrorist organisation.
The Quartet raised Palestinian hopes last month with a promise to funnel the aid.
''In terms of its details, I think people want to see the most urgent humanitarian needs taken care of,'' Welch, told a news conference in Kuwait City, adding those might be specific such as medical items.
He said the Europeans are interested in possibly providing some further funding for certain operations like the Gaza power electricity plant as well as providing humanitarian assistance to families with difficulties.
''UN organisations sometimes do that for the refugee populations, so there's a question of what happens to the other part of the population,'' added Welch, whose State Department specialty is the Near East.
Welch said Washington, which strongly opposes any direct aid to the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority, will not agree that salaries could be paid from these funds. He said the salaries of public employees were the responsibility of the Hamas government.
''I think instead, what the international community will look at is is there some way we can help those who are really in the most urgent and critical situation, who may have nothing to do with the (Hamas) government ...'' Welch said.
He said the Hamas government has the money to pay salaries.
''They seem to have a lot of people who are able to drive around all over with nice uniforms and gasoline in their cars, they're sending delegations abroad to talk to everybody about their difficulties,'' Welch added.
Israel and the United States have called on other countries to boycott Hamas, which crushed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's long-dominant Fatah faction in January polls, until it disarms, recognises the Jewish state and interim peace deals.
''All that is needed is yes, yes, and yes,'' said Welch, adding there was no change in Hamas's policy.
Asked about concerns the aid will not be enough to meet the needs of Palestinians and if Washington would agree to channel funds for the salaries to the Palestinian presidency, he said: ''That is not a solution ... to transfer the problem over to President Abbas, he knows what he wants done, he agrees to this approach, he has a platform of peace ... the problem is with the government of Hamas.''