Syria moots Arab aid for Palestinians

Syria plans proposing to Arab nations to compensate the Palestinians for any aid Western powers might cut after the election victory of Islamist group Hamas.

    Hamas won last week's Palestinian legislative elections

    State-run Sana news agency on Tuesday quoted Farouq al-Shara, the foreign minister, as saying Syria would submit the proposal at an Arab summit in March.


    "The move comes within the framework of the continuous Arab support to the Palestinian people, and the respect of its will and choices," Sana said.


    The Quartet of major powers trying to broker Middle East peace - Russia, the European Union, the US and the UN - said earlier this week that Hamas must reject violence and recognise Israel or risk losing the vital aid.


    But Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, said on Tuesday the world should not cut off funding to the Palestinians after Hamas's victory.


    Syria is a key Hamas supporter and has been under a US-led international pressure to expel the group's leadership from Damascus, including politburo chief Khaled Meshaal.


    Putin said the world should not
    cut off Palestinian funding

    Israel said it expected to suspend monthly tax payments to the Palestinian Authority during a policy review after Hamas's win, a decision that Hamas spokesman Mushir al-Masri described

    as an Israeli attempt "to steal Palestinian money".


    Saudi criticism


    Saudi Arabia

    's foreign minister, meanwhile, said the EU was being "unreasonable" for threatening to cut crucial financial aid to a Hamas-led Palestinian government.

    "The European Union insisted on having elections in Palestine, and this is the result of what they asked for," Prince Saud al-Faisal said in Malaysia.

    "Now to come around and say (they) do not accept the will of the people that was expressed through democratic means seems an unreasonable position to take," said al-Faisal, who was accompanying Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah on a state visit to Kuala Lumpur.

    The prince indicated that Riyadh would maintain its position as the Palestinians' biggest Arab donor, saying that "if anybody changes his relations to the Palestinian Authority prematurely, it would be a disastrous thing".

    Hamas, which won last week's Palestinian legislative elections, on Monday promised that international aid would only go toward helping ordinary Palestinians and said that a Hamas government is ready to open up its budget and spending to outside monitors.

    Hamas pledge

    The Islamic resistance faction's assurance came as foreign ministers from the 25 EU nations urged Hamas to recognise the state of Israel, renounce violence and disarm, and threatened to cut off funding if the demands were ignored.

    Europe is the largest international donor to the Palestinian Authority, which relies heavily on foreign aid to meet its annual operating budget of about $1.6 billion. About one-third goes to salaries and the rest to rehabilitate the war-shattered infrastructure.

    Al-Faisal voiced optimism that Hamas - which has opposed Arab-Israeli peace talks and carried out dozens of suicide bombings against Israelis - might assume a more moderate agenda.

    "I cannot believe that they will not act responsibly as a government," al-Faisal said. "We have to wait and see, and we suggest that everybody wait and see. We need cool heads now, rather than reactions that close the door to (a) peaceful settlement."

    SOURCE: Agencies


    Interactive: How does your country vote at the UN?

    Interactive: How does your country vote at the UN?

    Explore how your country voted on global issues since 1946, as the world gears up for the 74th UN General Assembly.

    'We were forced out by the government soldiers'

    'We were forced out by the government soldiers'

    We dialled more than 35,000 random phone numbers to paint an accurate picture of displacement across South Sudan.

    Interactive: Plundering Cambodia's forests

    Interactive: Plundering Cambodia's forests

    Meet the man on a mission to take down Cambodia's timber tycoons and expose a rampant illegal cross-border trade.