INTRO: World leaders attend a conference in Egypt to discuss the way forward for Gaza and how to bring peace to the Middle East.
MOREINFO: International donors pledged over three billion U.S dollars on Monday (March 2) to help the Palestinian economy and rebuild Gaza after Israel's three-week offensive, insisting their funds bypass the territory's Hamas rulers. Gulf Arab states, the United States and the European Commission made significant pledges, while others including Turkey, Italy, Germany and Algeria also announced contributions.
As leaders arrived for conference on the future of Gaza there was good news for the Palestinian Authorities.
They had hoped more than two billions U.S. dollars would be pledged for the rebuilding of Gaza following Israel's hostilities earlier this year.
But already more than three billion had been pledged by donors including the U.S. the European Commission and the Gulf Arab states.
Speaking at the conference U.N. General Secretary, Ban Ki Moon said Gaza's closed crossing points prevented aid workers and essential commodities from reaching the Gazan people.
(SOUNDBITE)(English) UNITED NATIONS SECRETARY-GENERAL BAN KI-MOON, SAYING:
"Our first and indispensable goal, therefore, is open crossings. By the same token, however, it is therefore essential to ensure that illegal weapons do not enter Gaza."
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made it clear the reconstruction was part of broader picture of pushing forward peace in the Middle East.
(SOUNDBITE)(English) U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE HILLARY CLINTON, SAYING:
"We have worked with the Palestinian Authority to install safeguards that will ensure that our funding is only used where and for whom it is intended and does not end up in the wrong hands. (AUSTRIAN REPRESENTATIVE LISTENING) In pledging these funds, we are pursuing both a short- and long-term approach. It is not enough just to respond to the immediate needs of the Palestinian people. Our response to today's crisis in Gaza cannot be separated from our broader efforts to achieve a comprehensive peace. (AZERBAIJAN REPRESENTATIVE LISTENING) Only by acting now can we turn this crisis into an opportunity that moves us closer to our shared goals. By providing humanitarian assistance to Gaza, we also aim to foster conditions in which a Palestinian state can be fully realised."
The President of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, spoke with hope for a future united Palestinian state.
(SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY PRESIDENT MAHMOUD ABBAS, SAYING:
"...A Palestinian unity government and an end to the state of division, and to support the unification of the two parts of our homeland both in everyday life and institutions and to open a path to the formation of a national unity government that respects and adheres to the national and international obligations and that controls the nation's affairs and that will work towards legislative and presidential elections on its appointed date this coming January."
Israel and Hamas were not invited to the conference which Egypt had called for after the end of Israel's three-week military offensive in Gaza in January
Penny Tweedie, Reuters.