Saturday, April 28, 2012

Obama signs waiver to lift Palestinian aid barrier

A Palestinian man has his ration weighed as he receives his monthly food aid
AFP/File - Said Khatib

President Barack Obama has signed a waiver to remove curbs on funding to the Palestinian Authority, declaring the aid to be "important to the security interests of the United States."

A $192 million aid package was frozen by the US Congress after the Palestinians moved to gain statehood at the United Nations last September.

But in a memo sent to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, published by the White House, the president said it was appropriate to release funds to the authority, which administers the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

In signing the waiver, Obama instructed Clinton to inform Congress of the move, on the grounds that "waiving such prohibition is important to the national security interests of the United States."

The Department of State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs Appropriations Act of 2012 contained a provision that said none of the funds "may be obligated or expended with respect to providing funds to the Palestinian Authority."

In November, the US Congress released $40 million but the State Department had expressed concern about being able to provide the necessary funding to address the dire economic and humanitarian hardship facing Palestinians.

White House spokesman Tommy Vietor said the funds were aimed at "ensuring the continued viability of the moderate PA government under the leadership of president Mahmoud Abbas and prime minister Salam Fayyad."

"The PA has recognized Israel's right to exist, renounced violence, and accepted previous agreements, including the Roadmap," he said, referring to the peace plan proposed by the so-called Middle East Quartet -- United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations.

"The United States is committed to a just, lasting, and comprehensive peace in the Middle East, including a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict," he added.

On April 11, the Quartet called on foreign donors to deliver promised aid to the Palestinians while urging Israelis and Palestinians to build trust to revive peace talks.

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