Abbas: Freeze in EU aid 'unjustified'

"I try night and day to convince Hamas to adopt my policies," he says.

mahmmoud abbas 298.88 (photo credit: AP)
mahmmoud abbas 298.88
(photo credit: AP)
The European Union's freeze on direct aid to the Hamas-led Palestinian government is "unjustified," Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas said in a newspaper interview published Friday. Abbas said he would explain his position during visits to Norway, Turkey and France next week, "so that the Palestinians are not penalized by the economic blockade." "I believe that the stop in European aid is unjustified," he told Le Monde. "If European countries do not want contacts with the Palestinian government, there are other means to maintain aid destined for the Palestinian people," including channeling funding through his office, "which would receive and redistribute it," said Abbas, who is due in Paris next Thursday and Friday. Although the EU said it would continue to fund health care, education and other humanitarian projects, the indefinite freeze of direct budgetary aid to the Hamas-led Palestinian government will dry up hundreds of millions of euros (dollars) in annual EU money that had been going directly into the Palestinian Authority's budget for a wide range of infrastructure projects and the payroll for 140,000 government employees. Hamas, which won the Jan. 25 Palestinian legislative elections, is on the EU's list of terrorist organizations, a designation that bars EU officials from any dealings with the group. The United States, Canada and non-EU member Norway have also cut off payments. Abbas said government employees' salaries should be paid, in full or in part, as soon as possible. "We are going to make proposals along this line to the Americans and Europeans in the hope that they will be accepted," he said. Abbas also said that Hamas must fall into line with his moderate positions or risk isolation. He said he had hoped that the militant Islamic group would condemn this week's suicide bombing in Tel Aviv claimed by Islamic Jihad, but "unfortunately, they did not." "I hope that they will change their position in the future. I try night and day to convince them to adopt my policies, which are moderate. If they do not, they will end up totally isolated, and thus incapable of accomplishing their mission," Abbas said. Meanwhile, France said it refused a visa for the Palestinian planning minister, Samir Abu Eisha, to attend a conference in Paris. The visa refusal was in line with an EU decision to suspend contacts with the Palestinian government as long as Hamas does not recognize Israel's right to exist, renounce violence and respect previous peace accords, French Foreign Ministry spokesman Jean-Baptiste Mattei said. He said France is also in contact with its European partners to determine how to respond to other such visa requests that have been made.