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Britain will not suspend PA aid over new UN bid

Sept. 1, 2012 10:28 A.M. (Updated: Sept. 2, 2012 6:44 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- Britain will not suspend financial aid to the Palestinian Authority if the latter submits a new application to the UN seeking recognition of Palestine as a non-member state of the General Assembly, a British official confirmed Friday.

The PA plans to ask the UN General Assembly to upgrade Palestine’s status to a non-member observer state in the fall. A previous bid for full UN membership stalled at the Security Council last year.

Speaking to Ma’an on Friday, UK deputy-consul general in Jerusalem Ben Saoul highlighted that the British government would continue to support the PA financially until 2015 to help build a Palestinian state and support economic development.

Britain’s financial aid to the Palestinians is about $160 million per year, said Saoul. A portion of this aid goes directly to the PA’s treasury, and the rest goes through UNRWA and non-governmental organizations.

The PA has been suffering from a crippling financial crisis and civil servants’ monthly salaries were delayed several times.

The deputy consul-general said he met Friday in Jerusalem with representatives of European donor organizations to discuss the financial crisis. Ending this crisis, he said, is a top priority for Britain and for the European Union.

Asked whether his country would vote for or against the new Palestinian UN bid, Saoul did not give a clear answer. “We don’t want to jump to conclusions,” he said.

The diplomat also refused to give a direct response to Israeli foreign minister Avigdor Liberman’s remarks describing President Mahmoud Abbas as an obstacle to the peace process.

“I will not address Liberman’s comments directly because they were directed to the Palestinian people, and not to the British government. However, in general, the legitimate representative of Palestine, in Britain’s view, is Mr Abbas, and we believe he is a man of peace.”

Britain is interested in supporting the Palestinians who live in area “C” which is under Israeli security control according to the terms of Oslo agreement, said Saoul.

He highlighted that on Wednesday he visited the southern West Bank village of Susiya south of Hebron along with a European delegation. They checked on three families whose tents were demolished recently by Israeli forces.

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