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Source: European Commission
18 June 2006

Quartet backs EU proposals for International Mechanism to aid Palestinian people

"Quartet backs EU proposals for International Mechanism to aid Palestinian people"

The European Commissioner for External Relations, Benita Ferrero-Waldner has welcomed the endorsement by the Quartet (US, EU, UN and Russia) of European Union proposals for a Temporary International Mechanism.

The Commissioner has spearheaded efforts to develop the Mechanism. She said:

"The backing of the Quartet is an important step that will enable us now to start implementing our proposals. Europeans are determined to play our part in preventing a humanitarian crisis in the Palestinian Territories. But there can be no business as usual with a government that has not yet accepted the fundamental principles of peace. That is why we have worked hard to develop a Mechanism that will meet some basic needs without money passing through the government.

Parts one and two of the Mechanism will be launched immediately, with the aim of making payments to individuals by early July. The aim is to have part three of the Mechanism functioning as soon as possible. All three will operate with strict controls in full accountability and transparency".

The Commissioner will travel immediately to the region. On 19th and 20th June, she hopes to see Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, as well as Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas and other leading figures on both sides. She will not meet any member of the Hamas-led government. Now that the proposals for a Temporary International Mechanism have won the approval of the Member States of the EU, and the Quartet, she looks forward to discussing the new Mechanism with all parties. During her visit talks will also focus on the current political situation and prospects for a return to dialogue leading to a negotiated two-state solution.

The Mechanism will cover essential supplies to the health sector and payments to health care service providers; utilities including fuel; and basic needs allowances to meet the essential needs of the poorest segments of the population.

President Abbas’ office will act as interface for the donor community in the operation of the Mechanism, signing and authorising all necessary documents.

Assistance will be channelled through a three part structure:

1) The Emergency Services Support Programme (ESSP) of the World Bank will be expanded to cover essential supplies in the health sector and basic allowances to those who are providing care in hospitals and clinics. While implementation procedures are being developed, the European Commission will co ordinate with the World Bank in providing immediately and directly allowances to the health care sector employees form the community budget.

2) The Interim Emergency Relief Contribution (IERC) of the European Commission will be reinforced to ensure uninterrupted supply of essential utilities such as fuel.

3) A Needs Based Allowance Programme will be developed as quickly as possible to create a “social safety net”. A fund will be established to make payments direct to individual bank accounts on the basis of need.

Since the Hamas-led PA government came to power, the European Union has suspended direct aid to or through the Palestinian Authority. It has, however, expanded its assistance to help meet Palestinian basic needs. €154 million has been made available since the beginning of 2006, which includes €64 million for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, €40 million to ensure uninterrupted power supply; and €34 million humanitarian aid. Despite the suspension of direct aid announced earlier in the year, the EU remains the biggest donor to the Palestinians.

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