Archive for December 30th, 2011

Palestinian factions agree on unified government

Thursday 22 December 2011
Phoebe Greenwood in Tel Aviv

President Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal finalize groundbreaking deal in Cairo after heated negotiations.

Rival Palestinian factions have agreed to form a unified government, which will be sworn in by the end of January. The Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, and Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal met in Cairo to agree the groundbreaking deal late on Wednesday after days of heated negotiation between representatives of Palestinian political groups led by Hamas and Fatah.

The talks, mediated by Egypt, are part of ongoing efforts to mend the factional divisions that split Gaza from the West Bank in 2007 and led to the collapse of the Palestinian legislative council. There has not been a functioning Palestinian parliament since.

Initial reports suggested that the announcement signaled Hamas’s return to the Palestine Liberation Organization, which is internationally recognized as representing the Palestinian people. But Fatah officials told the Guardian that the militant group is yet to sign the PLO charter, which would require it to lay down arms.

Ghassan Khatib, a spokesperson for Mahmoud Abbas, welcomed the progress, saying that in order to the achieve independence through the United Nations, the Palestinian Authority must prioritize reunification.

“We are hopeful the reconciliation will be successful,” Khatib said. “We cannot say we are ready for independence and statehood before we have a reunified Palestinian system.”

On Tuesday, the delegates agreed to set up both an electoral commission and a deadline for the establishment of a caretaker cabinet of technocrats. Both sides agreed that all political prisoners currently held in the West Bank and Gaza would be released by the end of January.

The issue of prisoners has been a critical sticking point. Officials in the Gaza Strip point out that since Abbas promised to release Hamas prisoners held by the Palestinian Authority at his last meeting with Meshaal in November, 89 members of the militant faction have been arrested in the West Bank.

Cynics within both factions maintain that the victories won at the Cairo summit are hollow. While Hamas has agreed to accept the foundation of an independent Palestinian state within the 1967 borders, the militant group steadfastly refuses to abandon its armed resistance to the Israeli occupation or recognize the state of Israel.

“We want really to end this [division] but I am not optimistic,” a spokesperson for Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniyeh said earlier this week, indicating that the leadership of acting prime minister Salam Fayyad remained an obstacle. “Abu Mazen [Abbas] has said no government without Salam Fayyad. This is not negotiation.”

Fayyad is regarded with suspicion by Hamas.

Hamas officials also predict that heavy diplomatic and financial pressure applied by Israel and the US will ultimately prevent Mahmoud Abbas from forming a unity government.

The Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, has issued an ultimatum to the Palestinian leader, warning that he must choose between reconciliation with Hamas and peace with Israel, a stance confirmed by his spokesperson on Thursday.

“Hamas is openly against peace. Terrorism is not just a tactic it is their very being. The unfortunate reality is that if Abbas moves towards Hamas, he moves away from peace,” Mark Regev said.

Washington has indicated it will cut millions of dollars in funding to the Palestinian security infrastructure if the current leadership unifies with Hamas.

If the new Palestinian government is established in late January, its birth will coincide with the deadline presented to Palestinian and Israeli leaders by the Middle East quartet to present roadmaps to peace. The international mediating body has requested serious proposals on border and security issues from both governments by 26 January.

Source: The Guardian.
Link: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/dec/22/palestinian-factions-agree-unified-government.

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Kuwait donates 1 million to support Gaza preschool children

WASHINGTON, Dec 24 (KUNA) — The American Near East Refugee Aid (ANERA) organization late Friday said it was “absolutely thrilled and grateful” to receive a USD one million dollar donation from the Kuwaiti government to provide nutritional support to children in Gaza. The non-profit relief and development agency said that the substantial donation would provide vitamin-fortified milk and high-energy biscuits to over 17,000 pre-schoolers in Gaza, where the World Health Organization statistics show nearly four out of ten children under five suffer from anemia and malnutrition.

“This is something that’s near to our hearts and I think to everyone in the State of Kuwait that we look upon innocent children and hope that they have the basics of life. This is one of the things we’re trying to provide. This offers them a safety net so that the ravages of anemia and stunting are not something they have to live with day after day,” Bill Corcoran, President of ANERA told KUNA in an interview.

During a visit to ANERA’s Washington headquarters, Kuwait’s Ambassador to the US Sheikh Salem Al-Sabah told KUNA that this is the second donation from Kuwait to fund ANERA’s work with children in Gaza.

He added that Kuwait exerts many efforts to support the Palestinian people throughout the years, which reflect the deep Kuwaiti-Palestinian “distinctive and historic” relations.

He affirmed that the Palestinian issue is among the priorities of the Kuwaiti leadership, stressing the support of the Kuwaiti people to the Palestinians on all levels.

The Ambassador stressed that this donation comes to provide the simplest living requirements for the Gaza children in light of the “difficult political, economic and living conditions” there.

The Kuwaiti Government had also donated in March 2010 USD one million to fund ANERA’s Milk for Preschoolers program with children in Gaza. “This generous gift strengthens ANERA’s capacity to care for Palestinian children at their most vulnerable age,” said former U.S. Ambassador to Kuwait and ANERA board chairman Edward Gnehm, telling KUNA, “This really touches children and it touches the hearts of people. They do feel neglected, they do feel ignored by the world and this is a very special way to reach out to them. We are very much a part of their lives and we are happy to be partners with Kuwait.”

ANERA said the USD one million donation is a “valued endorsement of ANERA’s ability to deliver with the highest standards of accountability and responsibility.” For more than 40 years ANERA has been a leading provider of development, health, education and employment programs to Palestinian communities and impoverished families through-out the Middle East.

In 2011, the relief and development agency delivered more than USD 65 million of programs to the people of the West Bank, Gaza, Lebanon and Jordan. This was up from the USD 51 million raised in 2010.

Source: Kuwait News Agency (KUNA).
Link: http://www.kuna.net.kw/NewsAgenciesPublicSite/ArticleDetails.aspx?id=2210818&Language=en.

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