Palestine Aid Cut Would Be ’Brutal’, EU Diplomats Say

EU diplomats have rejected a European Commission proposal to suspend direct aid to the Palestinian Authority, saying the measure would be “too brutal.”

The Financial Times reports that diplomats from all EU member states stuck together on the decision, despite the fact the new government is led by Hamas – a militant group on the EU’s own terrorist list.

Envoys from France and the UK said it would send a wrong and even “brutal” signal to the Palestinian Authority to halt aid at this stage, without first developing alternative ideas for delivering assistance.

The EU is the biggest donor to the Palestinian Authority, with member states and the European Commission putting aside around €500 million a year since 2003.

Some diplomats also argue that Brussels should engage with Hamas as it gains increasing support in the Arab world together with its parent group, the Muslim Brotherhood.

Brussels aims to be a key player in the Israeli conflict, so far adopting a wait-and-see policy on Hamas unlike Tel Aviv and Washington who reject any contact with the group.

The aid issue is one of the important topics on the agenda of an EU foreign ministers meeting in Luxembourg on Monday.

The ministers are also expected to discuss visas for Hamas officials and how to continue Euromed meetings between the EU and Mediterranean and North African countries with Hamas in power.

Brussels sends overtures to Hamas
EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana earlier this week said EU aid should continue to flow, as it is “a moral imperative which the EU cannot shirk.”

No good could come of a humanitarian crisis and instability in the occupied territories, he added.

But he warned the direct aid system would have to be reformed if Hamas continues to violate international principles on Israel.

Last month, UN and human rights NGOs warned that food stocks in the Gaza strip are running out and salaries are unpaid due to Israel’s cutting off of trade routes into the Palestinian areas and withholding of tax revenues and customs duties.

Hamas has appealed to the Arab world to hand over aid for the cash-stripped organisation, media reports say.