Quartet renews aid to Palestinians

US administration is trying to shore up Fatah's security forces, diplomats say.

Haniyeh talks 288.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
Haniyeh talks 288.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
An agreement was reached Friday to extend US, European, UN and Russian assistance to Palestinians that bypasses Hamas. In a statement issued by the Quartet - the United States, the European Union, the United Nations and Russia - the Palestinians' benefactors said the Palestinians were in need and encouraged donors to respond to UN and other requests. The program, adopted after Hamas' election victory in January, provides for direct assistance to the Palestinians and their programs. In the past year, the United States has contributed about $450 million. The Bush administration has shunned Hamas, which it regularly denounces as a terrorist group, and supported Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas. Hamas has refused to recognize Israel or to disavow the use of violence against the Jewish state. Last week, in a move to undercut Hamas, the State Department tentatively endorsed a call for early elections by Abbas, who is gambling that he can try to topple the Hamas-led government. Also, the State Department said the administration was trying to persuade Congress to shore up security forces loyal to Abbas with money for salaries, training and logistical support. Arrangements to extend the assistance program were made in a conference telephone conversation by Assistant Secretary of State David Welch with counterparts in the European Union, the United Nations and Russia, the State Department announced. The funding mechanism was due to expire at the end of the year. It will be extended for three months and further extensions considered then, the department said. The Quartet commended the World Bank and the European Union for facilitating aid to the Palestinians under the arrangement. This week, President George W. Bush signed into law a bill meant to block US aid to the Hamas-led Palestinian government and banning contacts with Hamas until group has renounced violence and recognized Israel's existence. The bill puts into law what already was administration policy.