Terror in America: Palestinian reaction

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Series Details Vol.7, No.33, 13.9.01, p5
Publication Date 13/09/2001
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Date: 13/09/01

By David Cronin

The EU should not reduce its aid for the Palestinian Authority despite allegations that Islamic fundamentalists were responsible for this week's carnage in New York and Washington, according to Yasser Arafat's Brussels representative.

Chawki Armali said he hoped and believed "the European Union would be more eager to act in order to stop all kinds of violence in our area and to facilitate the return to dialogue".

In recent years, the Union has been the world's largest donor of non-military assistance to the Middle East, contributing annual sums of nearly €180 million in direct aid to the Palestinian Authority, 'peace projects' and refugee support between 1994 and 2000.

European Commission spokesman Jonathan Faull said yesterday (12 September) that the time was not yet appropriate to decide on future funding for the region, although he stressed that the Union's executive "remains committed to the pursuit of peace in the Middle East".

Armali echoed Arafat in strongly condemning the atrocities, although television pictures showed Palestinians rejoicing in the streets. "These criminal acts don't help any cause which their authors may pretend to defend," he said, adding that Arafat's government has no links with the chief suspect, Saudi dissident Osama Bin Laden and his network. "I refuse to believe that any Palestinian organisation could have the means or logistics to cause all this bloodshed," Armali declared.

However, he voiced fears that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon would use the attacks as a pretext to "accentuate his oppression of the Palestinian people". Reports that at least nine Palestinians were killed during Israeli incursions into the Palestinian-controlled city of Jenin in the West Bank and of other Israeli-inflicted casualties since news of the US crisis broke indicated that Israel may already be planning to intensify its attacks, he said.

A spokesman for Israel's representation to the EU, Haim Assaraf, said it was too early to predict what the implications for the Union's policy towards the Middle East will be.

Along with its economic support, both External Relations Commissioner Chris Patten and foreign policy supremo Javier Solana have played an unprecedented active role in trying to broker a settlement to end the latest round of fighting in the Middle East.

Many observers have remarked that their initiatives appear to signal an end to the Union taking a back-seat to US diplomacy.

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