G8 offers $3bn aid to Palestine

Palestinian officials have welcomed an aid package of up to $3 billion, announced at the G8 summit, but said the money must be disbursed quickly to help rebuild the Gaza Strip after Israel's withdrawal this summer.

    Most of the G8 funds are to be spent on jobs and infrastructure

    British Prime Minister Tony Blair did not give a timeframe for releasing the aid, saying only that the G8 countries would deliver it in the years to come.


    Palestinian officials said on Friday that they expected much of the money to go to job creation and infrastructure projects in Gaza, where unemployment runs at more than 50%.


    James Wolfensohn, a special envoy on the Gaza withdrawal, has been lobbying donor countries to help create jobs in Gaza as quickly as possible after the Israeli disengagement.


    Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erikat and Palestinian Finance Minister Salam Fayyad said the economic support must be accompanied by a push from the international community to restart negotiations on a final peace deal.


    Political support


    "We consider this support as crucial for the peace process; but at the same time it can't replace the political support"

    Salam Fayyad,
    Palestinian finance minister

    The Palestinians fear that after the Gaza withdrawal, Israel will continue strengthening its hold on the large West Bank settlements and refuse to negotiate the terms of Palestinian statehood.


    "We consider this support as crucial for the peace process; but at the same time it can't replace the political support, which the international community should provide to the peace process in order to guarantee our full legitimate national rights," Fayyad said.


    Erikat said the aid should be disbursed quickly. He noted that Palestinians could be short of drinking water by next summer if large sums were not invested immediately into a north-south water carrier in Gaza. 

    SOURCE: Agencies


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