x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

GCC urged to plug Palestinian cash gap

Gulf countries should support Middle East peace by coming good on their pledges and funding state-building in Palestine, top Norwegian and Palestinian officials say.

NEW YORK // Oil-rich Gulf countries should support Middle East peace by coming good on their pledges and funding state-building in the Palestinian territories, top Norwegian and Palestinian officials say. After a meeting yesterday with GCC foreign ministers, including the UAE's Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, Norway's foreign minister, Jonas Gahr Store, urged the six GCC members to plug a US$400 million (Dh1.5bn) cash gap for building institutions towards an independent Palestinian state.

The UAE this month donated a further $42m in aid to the Palestinian Authority, bringing its total donations to $310m since 2007. The meeting also included the US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, and Salam Fayyad, the Palestinian prime minister. "The state-building programme of Prime Minster Fayyad is nearing its completion and it is the concerted purpose of the donors to sustain that effort in this next year towards the summer of 2011," Mr Store said. "We are concerned about the shortfall of funding and we have appealed to donors to live up to their pledges."

Mr Store, who chairs the group of Palestinian donors, said cash was urgently needed after the rebooting of direct peace talks with Israel that the US wants to lead to a full Palestinian state within one year. "We want this state to hit the ground running. That capacity is almost there," Mr Store said. "We really expect the Arab and Gulf states to live up to their pledges. Time is short. We will intensify our efforts to communicate those figures." Mr Fayyad said Palestinian officials were working hard to build its institutions in readiness for full statehood, should a peace deal be struck, but said it still needs cash to pay salaries and build infrastructure.

Cost-cutting and improved tax collection should enable his government to be self sufficient by 2013, he added. "We need to really push along. We are well positioned for the establishment of a state of Palestine at any point in the near future." Palestinian efforts to improve fiscal management are having an impact - but economic growth is hindered by Israeli restrictions on Palestinian movement and trade in the Gaza Strip and elsewhere, Mr Store said.

@Email:jreinl@thenational.ae * With additional reporting by Reuters