Arab states urged to honour aid pledges to Palestinians


London : A top-level meeting of representatives of the Middle East Quartet mediating in the peace process issued a call to Arab states Friday to honour aid pledges made to the Palestinian people.

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The meeting, aimed at easing the effect of restrictions placed by Israel on the Gaza Strip, is chaired by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and attended by Foreign ministers from Quartet members, the European Union (EU), the US and Russia.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said it was “extremely important” that Arab states paid out the money they had pledged to ease the crisis facing the Palestinian authority.

US officials say only about a fifth of money promised by Arab nations in December had been paid out. Only $153 million of the $717 million dollars pledged had so far been delivered by only three countries: Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Algeria.

Rice also warned that Israel and the Palestinians do not have “unlimited time” to achieve a peace deal.

“I do believe that the window for the two-state solution will not be forever open,” Rice told reporters Thursday while on a plane to London. “I think you could argue that it has gotten narrower and narrower over time.”

Palestinians needed to see improvements in their lives to give them hope and confidence to conclude an agreement with Israel.

Ahead of the talks, Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad said the peace process was “stumbling – and stumbling badly.”

Speaking in a BBC interview, he said: “For us Palestinians, we’re supposed to build institutions and strengthen institutions, and enhance our capacity in all fields of governance – including security.

“So far as the international donor community is concerned, it was supposed to provide us with the funding necessary to do all of those things.”

Later Friday, Rice was to have talks with foreign ministers from Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China on Iran’s nuclear programme before travelling to the Middle East.