Quartet agrees to aid PA
Quartet foreign ministers meet on humanitarian crisis in the PA, agree set up 'international mechanism' to channel funds to Palestinians; Ahead of meeting Rice declares: No one wants to see Palestinians suffer, but no talks with government which finds cause for celebration when suicide bomber blows himself up in Tel Aviv
The quartet of Middle East peace brokers agreed on Tuesday on an "international mechanism" to channel aid to the Palestinians for a trial period to ease the financial squeeze on the new government following the election of Hamas.
The group of international mediators—the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations—issued a statement indicating they had agreed on a three-month trial period for the mechanism after day-long meetings in New York.
Before the meeting, United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the US was concerned by the situation in the PA and that no one wanted to see the Palestinians suffer, but added that no one wanted to deal with a government which finds cause for celebration when a suicide bomber blows himself up in Tel Aviv.
She added that Hamas must make a decision, and if it wants to govern, it must declare an end to violence. Rice said this was the international consensus expressed in the Road Map.
The ministers convened at 10:00 p.m. Israel time in New York. The meeting was also be attended by the foreign ministers of Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia, who warned that "if the Palestinian Authority crashes, a civil war will break out."
A diplomatic source told Reuters news agency that the United States was moving closer to the stance of other members of the Quartet – Russia, the United Nations, and the European Union – that an "international temporary body" should be set up to transfer funds to PA workers.
The US already announced that it would transfer USD 10 million to the PA, as part of a program for the revival of the health system for the Palestinians.
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said that other countries were taking a tough stance towards Hamas. The US and European countries are examining how they can deal with Hamas without making the humanitarian situation in the PA worse.
The EU suggested transferring funds directly to PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, through an avenue that bypasses Hamas, in order to serve hospitals and schools. But while the United States is interested in providing humanitarian aid to the Palestinians, it rejected the EU's suggestion, as part of its goal to isolate the Hamas government until it recognizes Israel and abandons terrorism.
West Bank fuel shortages
Meanwhile, Palestinian sources told Ynet about fuel shortages in a number of places in the West Bank. Some gas stations have even shut down and workers were busy explaining the situations to customers in an effort to prevent them from entering the stations.
Palestinian sources say shortages have taken place in Qalqilia, Tul Karem, Nablus, and Bethlehem. A spokesman of the Infrastructure Ministry told Ynet, however, "that no fuel shortages are known to us," though other official sources said they were not surprised by the report.
A Bethlehem resident told Ynet Tuesday evening that he attempted to fuel his vehicle in all the gas stations in the city, but not one of them had petrol.
News Agencies contributed to this report