Chirac: Aid to PA must be resumed
During official visit of PA Chairman Abbas, French president says his country to push for continuance of financial assistance to Palestinians, 'for humanitarian, financial reasons'; calls for creation of a World Bank fund to pay the salaries of Palestinian officials
French President Jacques Chirac called Friday for the creation of a World Bank fund to pay the salaries of Palestinian officials, his office said after he met with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas.
France will raise the issue during talks May 9 with the United Nations, the United States, the European Union and Russia — the four key international players behind the stalled "road map" peace plan, Chirac spokesman Jerome Bonnafont said.
France and other European Union nations earlier this month cut off direct aid to the Palestinian government after Hamas' election victory. The European Union is the largest donor to the Palestinians, with aid totaling more than USD 600 million a year.
International sanctions have left the Hamas-led government unable to pay salaries to 165,000 Palestinian government employees.
France believes aid "must be maintained for humanitarian reasons, as well as for political reasons," Chirac said before going into the talks with Abbas. "And it will push for this continuance (of aid) within the international community and notably within the European Union."
Abbas confirmed at a later news conference that the World Bank channel was among those discussed with Chirac to get aid to the Palestinian people.
"If we do not reach a solution, it will be catastrophic," he said through a translator. "The situation is very grave, complex and sensitive."
'Hamas must respect international demands'
Chirac said humanitarian aid must be maintained and enlarged "particularly through the agencies of the United Nations," his spokesman said. He said aid must channel through institutions independent of the Palestinian government.
The French leader also suggested that more aid could be placed under the authority of Abbas, a moderate, his spokesman said.
Chirac asked Hamas to respect the demands of the international community: to renounce violence and recognize Israel's right to exist. The militant group, which has killed hundreds of Israelis in suicide bombings, has refused to temper its radical views.
Abbas, a moderate whose Fatah Party was defeated by Hamas in January's legislative elections, has worked to try to keep the West from shunning the Palestinians over the militant group's violently anti-Israel ideology.
"We affirm that we want to live in peace, security and stability next to the state of Israel," Abbas said.
Negotiations based on the so-called "road map" peace plan are still "the most adequate means" to reach a lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he said. The plan, which envisions an independent Palestinian state, has been stalled since shortly after its launch in June 2003.
"For that, we are in contact with the Israeli side to start direct negotiations with the government that will soon be formed," Abbas said.
He also warned that "unilateral solutions cannot lead to peace, but will delay it" — a reference to Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's plan to unilaterally draw Israel's final borders with the Palestinians by 2010.