Arab countries urged to help Palestinians beat cuts in U.S. aid


The Arab League has appealed to member states to bolster financial assistance to the Palestinian territories after U.S. lawmakers froze about $200 million in aid in response to Mahmoud Abbas’ U.N. statehood bid.

“It is necessary for the member countries of the League to increase their financial aid to the Palestinian people so they can face this threat,” said the Arab League secretary-general, Nabil al-Arabi, after talks in Cairo with the chief Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Erakat.

Members of the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee have frozen the funding to the Palestinians “until the Palestinian statehood issue is sorted out,” a congressional aide told AFP on Saturday.

The economic package is separate from security aid, which the U.S. lawmakers say would be counterproductive to block. They fear that withholding those funds would weaken the ability of Palestinian security forces to quell anti-Israel violence.

A coalition of Israel-backing Democrats and conservative Republican lawmakers are angered by the Palestinian bid for United Nations membership. Both the United States and Israel insist that only direct negotiations can produce an accord leading to Palestinian statehood.

“It is the right of the Palestinians to have their state, a full member of the United Nations, like other peoples of the world,” Arabi said.

Erakat said that the “Palestinian people refuse to allow economic aid to become an instrument of blackmail regarding its rights to membership of the United Nations.”

“We appreciate the American aid but we won’t allow it to become an instrument of blackmail,” he said.

Abbas, the Palestinian president, made a historic bid for U.N. membership on Sept. 23, but the United States has vowed to veto the application if it comes to a Security Council vote.

The diplomatic Quartet on the Middle East – the United States, Russia, European Union and United Nations – has launched a new bid to renew direct talks with a firm timetable for an accor