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Donors make progress on Palestinian aid

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

International donors are making progress toward finding the $1.2 billion needed to help fund the Palestinian Authority this year as it faces up to very difficult economic problems, officials said Tuesday.

"We did achieve some more donations so it seems we are close" to the target, "which is good news", said Norwegian Foreign Minister Epsen Barth Eide after talks with donors also chaired by EU foreign affairs head Catherine Ashton.

"We are getting there ... I am reasonably optimistic that we are getting closer," Eide said.

Palestinian prime minister Salam Fayyad expressed "satisfaction" at the outcome of the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee meeting of Palestinian donors.

Eide called on Israel to ease restrictions on the Palestinian territories so as to allow the Palestinians to continue to reform, and the donors to continue to donate.

The meeting emphasised the importance of restarting the stalled peace process, based on the Israel-Palestine two-state solution, after two years "marked by a fading political horizon for ending the conflict", a closing statement said.

The Palestinian "economy and public finances have deteriorated further as the economy is hobbled by persisting restrictions and increasing political uncertainty", it added.

Earlier, Ashton said the EU would contribute 300 million euros to the aid package, the same amount as last year.

Before the meeting, she signed a seven-million-euro aid deal with Fayyad to bolster ties and promote economic development.

Ashton told Fayyad that an action plan approved by EU leaders was based on a "shared commitment to deepen our bilateral relations and strengthen our privileged partnership".

The relationship was based on a commitment to a Palestinian state, sustainable economic development, fiscal consolidation and "enhancing social cohesion throughout Palestine", she said.

On Monday, the Palestinian Authority urged the world to step up financial aid and press Israel to allow economic development.

"We call on the international community to ... pressure the government of Israel to release our revenues and to provide the financial support required to maintain basic functions and services," said a Palestinian Authority report seen by AFP.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130319/donors-make-progress-palestinian-aid