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International Donors’ Pledges Exceed Palestinian Expectations

January 10, 1996
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International donors meeting here have pledged $685 million in aid to the Palestinian Authority.

The pledges surpassed Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasser Arafat’s hopes for assistance and reinforced his political stature prior to the Palestinian elections, scheduled for Jan. 20 in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

At a one-day conference Tuesday, some 50 countries and organizations also promised to pay an additional $500 million in funds previously committed, but not yet paid.

The total package of nearly $1.37 billion will be disbursed between now and March 1997.

Officials from the World Bank also said the amount pledged went way beyond their expectations.

Arafat had $550 million at a donors’ consultative conference here in October at which he presented a three-year development plan drawn up with the help of the World Bank.

The money for which he had asked will go to the Core Investment Program, which channels funds into new infrastructure projects.

The unexpected additional $315 million – from the donors who pledged $865 million – will be used to fund other projects.

“This will first of all strengthen our democracy. Our whole infrastructure has been destroyed and we are starting from zero,” said Arafat, who is seeking election to head the new Palestinian Council.

“Without the aid of our brother nations, our friends, we would have been unable to continue on the path to a just peace,” he said.

Arafat said areas that most urgently needed funding were the construction of new schools, roads, seaports, airports and the development of drinking water.

About $73.5 million of the new funds will be used to cover the Palestinian Authority’s $75 million budget deficit.

The European Union pledged the largest sum, offering $120 million. The World Bank offered $90 million.

The United States gave $71 million.

U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher said the conference marked a new phase in international aid to the Palestinians.

“We have entered a critical period in the peace process, and it is essential that we reinvigorate and focus our support for the Palestinian people,” Christopher said in a statement.

Christopher was unable to attend because of the blizzard that hit Washington and much of the northeastern United States.

“The effort that we launch today begins to shift our focus to areas that are essential to the longterm well-being of the Palestinian economy,” he said.

Israel, the Palestinians and the donors also signed an accord to keep the Palestinian government’s expenditures under control. The pact also binds the donor countries to fulfill their pledges.

The agreement includes a commitment by Israel to help support economic development in the autonomous areas.

Israeli Foreign Minister Ehud Barak said Israel, which has allocated almost $300 million in assistance to the Palestinians in the last year and a half, would continue to contribute.

The sum includes reimbursement of certain taxes collected by Israel, according to the Israel Embassy here.

French Foreign Minister Herve de Charette, who hosted the conference, said more representatives attended the conference than expected.

Neither Syria nor Lebanon sent a representative to the conference, even though countries were invited, according to French officials.

International donors pledged $2.4 billion in aid to the Palestinians in 1993 for a five-year period, about a third of which had already been handed over to the Palestinian Authority.

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