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Envoy: Arab League summit to address PA financial woes

July 15, 2012 1:47 P.M. (Updated: July 16, 2012 7:51 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- A Palestinian envoy said Sunday that next week's Arab League summit will activate regular payments from the region to the Palestinian Authority, offsetting the government's financial crisis.

The Arab peace initiative follow-up committee will meet in Doha, Qatar on July 22 at the request of President Mahmoud Abbas, an Arab League official said Saturday.

Muhammad Sbeih, secretary-general of Palestinian affairs in the Arab League, told Ma'an the meeting would set "decisive steps," and implement a safety net for the beleaguered PA.

In March, the Arab League agreed at a Baghdad summit to compensate the PA if Israel freezes tax revenues it collects on the Palestinian government's behalf as a punitive measure.

Israel froze the transfer of tax revenues, worth approximately $100 million per month, to the PA twice in 2011, when Hamas and Fatah leaders agreed to end their four-year division.

While Israel has not frozen revenues, since March the PA has descended into a worsening financial crisis, and was unable to pay full government employee salaries for June.

The PA cites large debts and the failure of donors to deliver aid as prompting the latest crisis.

Muhammad Sbeih said the issue had been politicized as the US demands all measures be postponed until after its presidential election in November.

He said he expected Arab states not to hold off their assistance until then, but criticized the "silence" of Arab countries over international pressures they face not to fulfill their financial obligations to the PA. He did not elaborate on the source of the pressure.

Sbeih added that after the PA issued calls to Arab states to help with their current financial crisis, Iraq was the first to respond and has promised to release $25 million shortly.

Meanwhile the economy minister Jawad Naji told Ma'an he had met with the president, prime minister and finance minister to devise a plan to overcome their financial problems.

They plan to visit several Arab nations to ask for support, he said.

On Friday Abbas met with King Abdullah in Saudi Arabia to discuss the financial situation in the Palestinian government. Sbeih praised the role of Saudi Arabia in supporting Palestinians.
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