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(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
More than half of the US House of Representatives sent a letter to EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana, which he received on Tuesday afternoon, calling for Europe to stand firm in refusing aid to the new Palestinian unity government.
The letter, given to Solana during a visit with the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and had been signed by 253 representatives, according to the office of Congressman Robert Wexler (D-Florida). Wexler, who heads the HFAC's Europe subcommittee, co-sponsored the letter along with subcommittee ranking member Elton Gallegly (R-CA), as well as Middle East Subcommittee Chairman Gary Ackerman (D-NY) and Ranking Member Mike Pence (R-IN).
In the letter, the congressmen "strongly urge" the EU "to maintain restrictions of direct aid to any Palestinian government until such time as that government fulfills its Quartet obligations."
So far, the new government has not agreed to meet those demands, which stipulate that the PA recognizes Israel, renounces violence and accepts previous Palestinian-Israeli agreements.
Solana affirmed that the EU policy of suspending aid to the Hamas-led PA would continue and that "they have no plans to provide any aid to the new Palestinian government," according to HFAC European Subcomittee aide at the meeting.
AIPAC, which lobbied for the letter during its policy conference last week, welcomed the congressional support it received.
"The House letter is a clear indication that Congress remains committed to holding the Palestinian government to international standards and ensuring that our European allies do the same," said AIPAC spokesman Josh Block.
In Rome, meanwhile, a high-ranking Foreign Ministry official told The Jerusalem Post that Italy plans to bring up ending the EU embargo on the Palestinian Authority at an EU meeting in the near future.
PA Prime Minister Ismael Haniyeh was quoted in Wednesday's Corriere della Sera as saying that he had been assured of support for an end to the Quartet's embargo by Vittorio Craxi, who is Undersecretary of Foreign Minister Massimo D'Alema.
Lisa Palmieri-Billig contributed to this report.
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