European envoys meet in Paris amid Gaza crisis

A year ago, European leaders happily collected billions of dollars in aid for the Palestinians to build a viable, peaceful state. Now, they just want to stop bloodletting in Gaza that is devastating those hopes.
The raging violence between Israeli and Hamas in Gaza overshadowed a Paris meeting Thursday between Mideast envoy Tony Blair and top European diplomats _ long planned to take stock of $7.7 billion in aid they helped raise for Palestinians in December 2007.
At the time, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said Palestinians were the "real winner" of the aid _ largely from Western and Arab countries and international groups and to be paid over 3 years. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the conference provided a "last hope" to the Palestinian Authority to avoid bankruptcy.
Now, the Palestinian Authority is struggling to stay relevant as attention focuses on rival Hamas, many parts of Gaza lie in ruin, and European hopes that international funding may help Palestinians move toward peace are lying in tatters.
At least $3 billion has already been paid, Kouchner's ministry says: $1.7 billion for budgetary support largely to pay salaries of Palestinian civil servants; $600 million to $700 million for specific projects; and $700 million to $800 million for humanitarian aid. The Foreign Ministry has said the money helped create 1,170 aid projects in the West Bank and Gaza to improve Palestinians' lives and paid 70,000 civil-servant salaries in Gaza alone.
Thursday's meeting brought Kouchner and Blair, the former British prime minister, together with Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere and EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner. They were to look at whether donors are paying the $7.7 billion they pledged and how the funds are being spent.
With access to Gaza restricted since the Israeli onslaught began, Western officials so far cannot gauge how much damage may have been done to projects funded by the conference, French diplomats say.
Medical officials in Gaza say about 1,100 Palestinians have been killed since Israel's offensive began Dec. 27 to stop Hamas rocket fire at Israeli towns.

Updated : 2021-04-17 08:12 GMT+08:00