NEW YORK (EJP) --- EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton issued a statement calling on “all donors to step in and help” the financially ailing Palestinian Authority (PA), the economic viability of which she stressed was “crucial” to resolving the deadlocked Middle East peace process.
Her comments following her attendance of the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee for Palestine (AHLC) meeting ahead of the opening of the UN general Assembly in New York and echoed UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s message to the meeting, urging the international community to make up the $400 million (€309 million) deficit in the Palestinian economy. “But we must also break the annual cycle of fiscal crises that hamper the Palestinian Authority's ability to sustain its State-building achievements,” he said.
“The vision of a two-State solution and the achievements of the Palestinian Authority are key elements of stability and progress. They must be maintained and realized in full without further delay,” Ban added, warning that time was running out for negotiations for a Two State solution, in sharp contrast to international rhetoric on Iran’s nuclear programme, with western powers continuing to maintain “there is still time” for diplomacy.
“The current situation is not sustainable. By the end of this year, yet another timeline for reaching a negotiated solution will have lapsed. The establishment of a viable, democratic and sovereign State of Palestine living side by side with Israel is long overdue,” Ban said, committing UN agencies’ efforts to work with the PA to increase its institution-building projects in Gaza.
Ashton meanwhile stressed “the EU's position on the need to move urgently towards the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, in the interest of stability, prosperity, lasting peace and security in the region”.
Both comments come ahead of PA President Mahmoud Abbas’ widely anticipated Assembly address Thursday, in which he is expected to appeal to delegates to grant the PA non-member observer status at the UN, in what is seen by Israel’s supporters as the first move towards its planned objective of pursuing Israel and its contested settlement building programme through the international courts.
Despite the move being fiercely opposed by the US as counter-productive to stalled peace talks with Israel, the motion would only require the support of a majority of the 193-nation UN General Assembly, and is seen by many as a compromise following the body’s veto of last year’s appeal by Abbas for unilateral statehood.
Speaking to reporters of the planned appeal from his office in the West Bank city of Jericho, chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat, warned that should the initiative prove successful, “life will not be the same”.
“Yes, the occupation will continue, the settlements will continue, the crimes of the settlers may continue, but there will be consequences”, he added. “After the UN vote ... Palestine will become a country under occupation. Israel will not be able to say that this is a disputed area.”
Ban’s statement is likely to be taken by Israel as an indication that the UN could be about to capitulate to the PA.
Meanwhile, at the Un’s headquarters in Geneva Monday, the PLO’s Ambassador to the UN Ibrahim Khraishi called on the organisation to accept Palestine as a member state, in an appeal to its Human Rights Council.
“The Palestinian people very soon are due to meet the dawn of their freedom,” Khraishi said. “The occupying force must take into account this reality. We are going to stay on Palestinian land.”
Referring to imminent developments in New York, he added: “We are confident that our state will be set up [as] a fully fledged member of the UN.”
His comments came as the council debated possible resolutions against Israel, over its continued West Bank settlement activity. Although Israel was treated to staunch criticised by assembled delegates, the council failed to pass any resolutions against the Jewish State.
Following intense and repeated criticism of Israel, Jerusalem has cut off ties with the council and was therefore not present for the debate. Close-ally the US did not address the council, apparently fuelling Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s allegations that incumbent present Barack Obama has “thrown Israel under the bus” in international forums.