Arab officials visit cash-strapped Palestinian territory
RAMALLAH, West Bank (Reuters) - Top Arab officials paid a rare visit to the Israeli-occupied West Bank on Saturday to discuss a Palestinian financial crisis that President Mahmoud Abbas hopes will be eased by Arab donations.
Arab League Chief Nabil Elaraby and Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohamed Kamel Amr congratulated the Palestinians on a successful United Nations status upgrade last month, but stopped short of promising the badly-needed funds.
"Palestine is in need of material and political support," Elaraby told a news conference in the Palestinians' de facto capital of Ramallah.
"Arab countries agreed at their Baghdad summit (in March) for an Arab safety net of $100 million dollars each month, but unfortunately none of this has been achieved yet," he said.
Palestinian were cheered by a strong majority in the United Nations recognizing them as an "observer state" on November 29 but have struggled to get Arab support to make up $100 million in shortfalls left by Israeli sanctions following the U.N. move.
Elaraby is the first Arab League Chief to visit Ramallah, but he and other prominent Arab and Islamic leaders, including the Egyptian prime minister, met Abbas's Palestinian Hamas rivals in Gaza during their brief war with Israel last month.
Hamas, which split from the West Bank after it seized control of the Gaza Strip in 2007, also won a diplomatic coup by receiving Emir Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, ruler of the oil-rich Gulf state of Qatar, who pledged $400 million in aid for the impoverished territory in October.
The emir postponed a visit to Ramallah he had announced this month, disappointing West Bank officials who had hoped he would arrive bearing gifts of cash. Continued...