Abbas: 'Situation is deteriorating'

Lavrov slams "boycott" of PA; presidential guard assumes control of Rafah.

mahmmoud abbas 298.88 (photo credit: AP)
mahmmoud abbas 298.88
(photo credit: AP)
Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas said Tuesday that the situation in the Palestinian areas was deteriorating, after decisions by the EU to cut off aid following the formation of a Hamas-led government. "The situation is deteriorating in a dramatic and tragic way," Abbas told reporters, according to the AP. "All countries have cut off their aid to the Palestinians under the pretext that the money is going to the government. But in fact it does not go to the government. It goes to the Palestinian people and human services." Meanwhile, forces loyal to Abbas assumed control of the Gaza Strip's border with Egypt on Tuesday. Abbas had been under international and Israeli pressure to take control of the Palestinian-run border away from the Hamas-led cabinet. About 150 presidential guards, moved into Rafah in a 25-vehicle convoy and took over activities from security forces employed by the interior ministry, Reuters reported. Hamas did not like this move. "It contributes to attempts to deprive the government of some of its authority," Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said. "We hope the decision will be reconsidered." On Tuesday, Russia's foreign minister criticized the West's "boycott" of the Palestinian government, saying the only way to force the new Hamas leadership to soften its militant ideology was to engage it. Sergey Lavrov said the cutoff of international aid to the Palestinian Authority following Hamas' election victory will only destabilize the region further. Lavrov, whose country hosted a visiting Hamas delegation last month, said an aid freeze is the wrong way to try to force Hamas to meet international demands to recognize Israel, give up violence and acknowledge existing Israeli-Palestinian agreements. "Of course Hamas must fulfill the demands made by international mediators. ... But to have that happen, it's necessary to work with Hamas, not boycott it," Lavrov told reporters after meeting his Jordanian counterpart, Abdul-Ilah al-Khatib. "The rejection of aid to the Palestinians only because they chose a government made up entirely of Hamas members in the elections is wrong," Lavrov said. The European Union this week froze hundreds of millions of dollars in annual direct budgetary aid to the Palestinian government. The United States and Canada have also halted government aid. The EU has said it will continue to dispatch humanitarian aid to the Palestinians through non-governmental organizations.