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Photo by: REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman
PA official: US pressuring Arab FMs not to visit
By KHALED ABU TOAMEH
29/12/2012
Arab League Secretary-General visits Ramallah for the first time while four foreign ministers cancel visit at last minute.
 
Palestinian officials in Ramallah on Saturday accused the US of putting pressure on Arab foreign ministers not to visit Ramallah.

The accusation came as Arab League Secretary- General Nabil Elaraby arrived in Ramallah for talks with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

This was the first visit to the West Bank by an Arab League secretary-general.

Four Arab foreign ministers who were supposed to accompany Elaraby backtracked at the last minute.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohamed Amru was the only minister to accompany the Arab League chief on his visit to Ramallah.

PLO Executive member Wasel Abu Yusef told reporters that the US administration was behind the cancellation of the four Arab ministers’ visit to the West Bank.

“The Americans prevented the Arab foreign ministers from visiting Ramallah,” Abu Yusef charged.

Some of the ministers who called off their visit claimed that they did not want to pass through IDF checkpoints on their way to Ramallah.

But Elaraby and the Egyptian foreign minister arrived in the city aboard a Jordanian helicopter, which landed in the Mukata presidential compound.

Abu Yusef and other Palestinian officials also accused Washington of exerting pressure on the Arab countries not to provide the Palestinians with financial aid.

“The US and Israel are imposing an economic blockade on the Palestinian state and are preventing the Arab countries and Western donors from providing Palestinians with financial aid,” he added. “Unfortunately, these countries have succumbed to the pressure, further intensifying the financial crisis in the Palestinian Authority.”

Abu Yusef, who is also head of the Palestinian group the Arab Liberation Front, accused the US and Israel of waging war on the Palestinians following last month’s UN vote in favor of recognizing the Palestinian Authority as a non-member state.

Elaraby said after the meeting with Abbas that the Arab countries had yet to fulfill their promise to give the Palestinians $100 million per month to solve its severe financial crisis.

He said that the Arab League would hold “consultations” with its members to ensure that they met their commitment toward the Palestinians.

“Palestine is in need of material and political support,” Elaraby told a news conference in the Palestinians’ de facto capital of Ramallah.

“Arab countries agreed at their Baghdad summit [in March] for an Arab safety net of $100m. each month, but unfortunately none of this has been achieved yet,” he said.

“We must admit that Palestine needs material and political support,” Elaraby said. “The Palestinian Authority can’t manage its affairs without financial support.”

Elaraby and other prominent Arab and Islamic leaders, including the Egyptian prime minister, met Abbas’s Palestinian Hamas rivals in Gaza during their brief war with Israel last month.

Hamas also won a diplomatic coup by receiving Emir Hamad bin Khalifa al- Thani, ruler of the oil-rich Gulf state of Qatar, who pledged $400m. in aid for the impoverished territory in October.

The emir postponed a visit to Ramallah he had announced this month, disappointing PA officials who had hoped he would arrive bearing gifts of cash.

The Gaza visits broke years of diplomatic quarantine for the Hamas, and increased the isolation of the Western-backed Ramallah government.

Abbas has accused Israel of “piracy” after it withheld customs revenues it collects on the Palestinians’ behalf, citing months of utilities bills Ramallah owes Israeli companies.

The financial crisis has forced the PA to delay salary payments to West Bank employees, who have gone on strike in protest. Abbas has responded by saying he might give up power and compel Israel to take on the Palestinians’ affairs.

“Sit in the chair here instead of me, take the keys, and you will be responsible for the Palestinian Authority,” Abbas warned Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, in an interview with Haaretz newspaper last week.

“I won’t do anything as long as there are diplomatic negotiations,” he said. “But if the stalemate continues... what’s left for us to do?” Reuters contributed to this report.
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