AL chief, Egyptian FM pay moral-support visit to PNA

2012-12-29 17:18:44 GMT2012-12-30 01:18:44(Beijing Time)  Xinhua English

RAMALLAH, Dec. 29 (Xinhua) -- Arab League chief Nabil al-Arabi and Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohammed Kamel Amr paid Saturday an official visit to the West Bank city of Ramallah, aiming at offering moral support to the Palestinian National Authority (PNA).

The two senior diplomats held talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah right after they flew from Jordan by a royal Jordanian helicopter. They were officially received, and placed two wreathes of flowers on the grave of late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat in the city.

"The Arab states' pledges to secure 100 million U.S. dollars as a permanent monthly financial payment to the Palestinians were not achieved," al-Arabi told a news conference after he met with Abbas, adding that he agreed with Abbas to go for practical steps to urge Arab states to fulfill their pledges.

The PNA has been passing through a crucial financial crisis and has not been able to cover its monthly running cost, mainly paying salaries to its servants. Al-Arabi said that within the coming few days "we will move and then see the results," adding that "the PNA won't be able to run under such a situation."

In the last Arab League Summit held in Iraq earlier this year, Arab states agreed to pay 100 million dollars as a guarantee sum to the PNA budget. Ten days ago, the PNA was compelled to borrow money from local banks to pay half of its employees' salaries.

The two main reasons for the PNA financial crisis are the shortage of international donations and Israel's rejection to transfer the tax revenue dues it collects from the Palestinian trade on behalf of the PNA. The PNA budget suffers a shortage that has reached 1 billion dollars.

Al-Arabi also said he congratulated Abbas and the Palestinian people "for the diplomatic victory" they achieved when the United Nations upgraded their diplomatic representation to a non-member observer state on Nov. 29, with 138 UN member states voting in favor and nine voting against.

"We can't keep going with the same arrangements we had been following over the past 20 years in resolving the Palestinian question," said al-Arabi, adding that he discussed with Abbas the upcoming steps "in coordination with the Arabs and Europeans to change the current status quo."

Meanwhile, Egyptian Foreign Minister Amr told reporters that he handed Abbas an official invitation from Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi to visit Cairo as soon as possible "to agree on implementing the internal Palestinian reconciliation and end the internal division."

"Egypt insists to finalize the reconciliation," Amr said, "We and the Arabs believe that without achieving a real and full reconciliation everything will be incomplete and we won't be able to reach a permanent peace agreement that ends the conflict and not only running it."

Egypt has been sponsoring the internal reconciliation talks between Abbas' Fatah Party and Islamic Hamas movement, which routed Abbas' forces and violently seized the control of the Gaza Strip in June 2007. Egypt has been exerting efforts to end the division between the two rivals.

Following the meeting, al-Arabi and Amr toured the suburbs of Ramallah and were briefed on the recent Israeli expansion of settlements. Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad accompanied the two Arab diplomats and briefed them on the issue of settlement expansion.

"The Israeli settlement expansion and activities are satanic and it must be immediately halted," al-Arabi told reporters, adding that "reality on the ground is worse than what we read and see in the media. Settlement is an issue that is destroying peace and takes the lands of the people."

The Israeli occupation of the West Bank "is illegal and the construction of settlement is illegal too," the AL chief said, adding that "all must stop in order to achieve peace not only in the region, but for the entire world."

Al-Arabi also met with the families of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.

Al-Arabi's visit, the first of an AL chief to Ramallah, comes one month after the United Nations upgraded the Palestinians' status, and is considered by the Palestinians as of great importance.

During the visit, dozens of Palestinians demonstrated in front of Abbas' office, waving Palestinian flags and calling for the implementation of the AL peace initiative of 2002, which calls for ending the Israeli occupation and establishing an independent Palestinian state.

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