Group supporting Palestinians made political and financial gains

An international group formed to assist the Palestinian Authority said Monday it had made progress in gaining political and financial support, but much more remained to be done before a Palestinian state is established, reported dpa.

PA's Prime Minister Salam Fayyad said donor countries have delivered their pledges this year to help the Palestinian people. More than 1.3 billion dollars of the total of more than 7 billion dollars have been received.

"The donors have delivered and we are encouraged by the international community's support," Fayyad said at UN headquarters in New York. "All in all, this gives us confidence to continue our work and make a difference."

Fayyad met with former British prime minister Tony Blair and Norway's Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Store, who co-chair the ad-hoc liaison committee to take stock of their activities in 2008 and map programmes for 2009.

The international community pledged 7.7 billion dollars to the PA for a three-year aid programme at a meeting in Paris in December.

Blair, the official representative of the so-called quartet as the diplomatic group for the Middle East peace process is known, said an agreed framework now exists to help advance the establishment of a Palestinian state living in peace alongside Israel - the two-state plan that is at the core of the group's policy. The quartet is composed of the United Nations, the European Union, the United States and Russia.

"We have an agreed framework, we have made some progress, but we need much much more," Blair said. "It is a question of speed and of change being systemic."

Before Fayyad and the ad-hoc committee met at UN headquarters, they held discussion with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to discuss plans for the economic, social and political development in Palestinian territories.

The group also met with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who on Monday urged donor countries to continue their support for the PA and to deliver the pledged 7.7 billion dollars.

Arab governments in particular have been reluctant to give money to the PA under the present circumstances, with Hamas controlling the Gaza Strip and the PA mostly controlling the West Bank. The cash- strapped PA has failed to pay salaries for its civil servants for months and recently received some cash from Saudi Arabia.

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