US scrambles to keep Palestinian Authority aid flowing

Obama administration in "intensive" discussions with key lawmakers who blocked some $200 million in Palestinian Authority aid.

By REUTERS
October 4, 2011 01:37
1 minute read.
US President Obama with PA President Abbas

US President Obama with PA President Abbas 311 (R). (photo credit: REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)

 
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WASHINGTON - The Obama administration is lobbying Congress to unblock $200 million in aid for the Palestinian Authority that was frozen due to its bid for UN recognition of statehood over US and Israeli objections.

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said on Monday the administration was in "intensive" discussions with key lawmakers who had put holds on the money, a financial lifeline for the fledgling Palestinian government-in-waiting.

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"We still have some money in the pipeline but the concern is that if we don't get this going with the Congress in short order there could be an effect on the ground," Nuland told a news briefing.

"There have been some concerns in some parts of Congress and we are trying to work through those," she said.

Lawmakers in both the Senate and the House of Representatives have moved in recent weeks to freeze the flow of aid to the Palestinians that had been appropriated for fiscal year 2011.

Representative Kay Granger, the Republican chairwoman of the House subcommittee that oversees foreign aid, placed her hold in August "until the issue of statehood is resolved" at the United Nations, her spokesman, Matt Leffingwell, said.

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"My boss is watching what is happening at the UN, and constantly reevaluating," he said.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas last month submitted a formal application to the UN Security Council for recognition of Palestinian statehood, ignoring a US threat to veto the measure if it is put to vote.

The United States and Israel both say that Palestinian statehood can only come through resuming direct peace negotiations that collapsed a year ago.

Abbas has said he will only return to talks with a new settlement freeze, complicating efforts by the "Quartet" of Middle East peace mediators - the United States, the European Union, the United Nations and Russia - to get both sides back to the negotiating table quickly.

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