EU aid commissioner to arrive in Israel

Four-day visit to touch on humanitarian issues connected to Palestinians, Iraq.

palestinian boy poor 298 (photo credit: AP [file])
palestinian boy poor 298
(photo credit: AP [file])
The European Union's Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid, Louis Michel, is scheduled to arrive in Israel on Wednesday for a four-day visit to the region to explore humanitarian issues connected to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and Iraqi refugees. On Wednesday he will meet with the Palestinian Authority Deputy Prime Minister Azzam al-Ahmad and on Thursday with Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni. On Friday, he will deliver a public lecture in east Jerusalem on moving the Middle East peace process forward. Michel will then head to Jordan and Syria, where he plans to meet with Syrian President Bashar Assad. He also plans to visit camps of Palestinian and Iraqi refugees. According to his press office, the Middle East "hosts one of the biggest refugee and displaced populations in the world." His office estimates that 3.8 million Iraqi citizens have fled their country since war broke out in 2003. "This represents the biggest movement of population in the region since World War II," said his office. The European Union is one of the world's leading donors to the Middle East. Since 2000, the European Commission has provided more than €333 million in humanitarian aid for the Palestinians. In addition it allocated €10.2m. of relief aid for victims of the Iraq crisis. Last week John Kjaer, head of the European Commission Technical Assistance office for the West Bank and Gaza Strip signed an agreement to give €66m. to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in 2007. On Monday in Brussels the EU Council agreed to extend for another three months its Temporary International Mechanism, by which it provides humanitarian funding for Palestinians.