Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas appealed on Tuesday to the European Union to resume aid to his impoverished people, who face escalating violence and a Hamas-led government near financial collapse.
Hamas enjoys popular support but its failure to renounce violence has led the EU to freeze aid
Addressing the European Parliament in Strasbourg on Tuesday, Abbas warned of an "explosion of anger" among Palestinians if international donors didn't act fast enough to restore aid cut off in recent weeks.
International donors, including the US and the EU, suspended aid to the Palestinian Authority because of the Hamas-led government's failure to renounce violence and recognize Israel since taking power in March.
Mahmoud Abbas warned the EU of an "explosion of anger" among Palestinians
"We ask that the international community act immediately in order to prevent the region from sliding into an abyss and a new cycle of conflict that will negatively impact the region and the world as a whole at a moment when our region is experiencing other tensions," Abbas said. "Life will be frozen and there will be an explosion of anger and this would lead to a chaotic situation of which we cannot foresee the results."
Abbas urges patie n ce with Hamas
Abbas urged the EU to give more time to Hamas, which figures on the bloc's list of terrorist organizations, to get used to its new role in office.
"The new government must be given the chance to adapt to the basic requirements of the international community," he said. "Stopping assistance to the Palestinian Authority will exacerbate the deteriorating economic and social conditions, and will weaken the network of efficient and working government ministries, administrations and institutions that the countries of the European Union have played a vital role in building and developing."
Hamas' sweep to power in March elections stunned the EU and the US
The EU is by far the biggest aid donor to the Palestinians but it froze some of those funds in April after Hamas came to power but refused to renounce violence or recognize Israel.
The Palestinian Authority has been unable to pay the salaries of its 160,000 civil servants for the past two months, threatening the livelihoods of one million Palestinians -- a quarter of the population in Gaza and the West Bank.
EU seeks way to cha n n el aid
In agreement with its partners in the Middle East diplomatic quartet -- the United Nations, United States and Russia -- the EU is looking for a way to channel aid to those most in need, without money reaching Hamas.
On Monday, EU foreign ministers vowed to put an aid mechanism in place, but said Israeli support was crucial. It also appears unlikely that the United States will play along.
EU External Affairs Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner said she hoped an aid mechanism proposed last week by the quartet of Middle East peace negotiators could be put in place by June, but said a number of technical obstacles could hinder a quick launch.
"At this moment, as another difficult moment is open to dangerous possibilities, we seek and await for a leading European role," Abbas said, after being welcomed into the EU assembly with a standing ovation.
Palestinians have been hit by the freezing of aid
The Palestinian leader, seen in Brussels as a possible "linkage point" through which to supervise the transfer of aid to the Palestinians, said that his people were starting to see the importance of committing to past agreements.
"I have asked the new government to amend its platform in order to conform to these commitments," he said. "We are in a continued dialogue that will take us to an expanded national dialogue in a few days. Our approach needs the support of the international community."