Palestinian donor meeting raises $500 mn
Stockholm, Sept 1: International donors pledged 500 million dollars in aid for the Palestinian Territories today and called on Israel to give humanitarian agencies better access to the region.
Sweden organised the meeting with Norway and Spain to raise 170 million dollars for a United Nations appeal and to draw attention to hardships in the Palestinian territories that have increased since the militant Hamas group came to power after January. polls.
Only 55 million dollars of the 500 million dollars was earmarked for the UN appeal.
''We are very impressed by the generosity (of donors),'' Mohammad Mustafa, economic advisor to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, told a news briefing after the conference in Stockholm.
A separate gathering on aid to Lebanon held in Stockholm yesterday raised 940 million dollars, nearly double expectations.
Kevin Kennedy, United Nations coordinator for humanitarian and development activities in the Palestinian Territories, was not disappointed by the shortfall in pledges to the UN appeal.
''It made a big step forward. There is still a ways to go,'' he told Reuters.
Conditions in the Gaza Strip and the Israeli occupied West Bank have worsened due to a Western aid boycott over the Hamas-led Palestinian government's refusal to recognise Israel, renounce violence and accept past peace deals.
The boycott has left the Palestinian Authority on the brink of financial collapse and many state workers unpaid.
A statement issued at the end of the Stockholm meeting noted that 1.4 million Palestinians in Gaza lived in harsh conditions due to persistent Israeli-Palestinian violence, lack of salaries for civil servants, high unemployment and reduced water and power.
It also reiterated that the unimpeded distribution of aid to the population in the region was ''an obligation under international humanitarian law and needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency''.
With the Western boycott biting hard, the Arab world has made some donations to the Palestinians. The European Union has also launched a programme aimed to by-pass the Hamas-led government to funnel funds directly to Palestinians.
Mustafa told the conference the Palestinian Authority's key goals were to repair water and power facilities damaged by Israeli military attacks, cover the cost of basic services and to pay public employees.
He also called for the immediate release of Palestinian custom revenues held back by the Israeli government.
Sweden said it would top up its aid to the Palestinian Territories by 14 million dollars.