As EU releases funds for Palestinian Authority, foreign leaders flock to Ramallah

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Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh welcomes European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen to Ramallah. Photo: Reuters/Mohamad Torokman

A group of foreign dignitaries visited Palestinian leaders in the West Bank city of Ramallah on Tuesday to discuss issues ranging from continued aid to the Palestinian Authority to de-escalating tensions with Israel.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi and a US delegation led by Barbara Leaf, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, all met with the Authority’s Prime Minister Palestinian Mohammad Shtayyeh in his office in Ramallah.

Von der Leyen’s meeting with Shtayyeh came the morning after a vote by the European Commission – the EU’s executive body – to release PA funds that had been blocked due to objections in Brussels the presence of anti-Semitic images and themes in Palestinian schoolbooks. The EU is the PA’s largest donor, having provided more than $2 billion over the past decade, much of which is used to pay the salaries of Palestinian civil servants.

“As Team Europe, we are the biggest donor in Palestine, with around 600 million euros a year,” von der Leyen told a press conference after the meeting. “I am very happy to report that the EU funds for 2021 can be disbursed quickly. All difficulties have disappeared.

Von der Leyen – who discussed a natural gas export deal with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on Monday as the EU tries to find energy sources outside Russia – claimed the The global impact of Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine would be acutely felt among ordinary Palestinians.

“Palestine is dependent on grain imports from Ukraine – like many other vulnerable countries around the world as well,” she said. “And since Russia is blocking the export of wheat from Ukraine via the Black Sea, the situation is very difficult at the moment.”

While von der Leyen did not say whether future aid to the PA would be conditional, the Palestinians were quick to claim a political victory.

“The Palestinian political system has rejected all conditions and dictations,” Abdul Allah Al-Atira, an aide to Shtayyeh, told Arab media. Al Watan. Al-Atira claimed that the EU would now release about $220 million in funding for the PA, which would go mainly to hospitals and other institutions in Jerusalem and the West Bank.

Impact-se, an independent NGO that tracks the Palestinian school curriculum, noted in a statement that the EU announcement “did not specify whether part of the funding would remain conditional on the basis of curriculum reform. the PA”.

The group argued that given “the importance of PA textbook reform to the Parliament and the Commission, one can only assume that a partial freeze on funding for the textbook incentive remains on the table”.

Shtayyeh met later on Tuesday with a US delegation led by US Under Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Barbara Leaf and her deputy Hady Amr. A reading of the meeting published by Palestinian news agency WAFA said the Palestinian prime minister reiterated his support for a two-state solution to the conflict with Israel, also urging the US to reopen its consulate in East Jerusalem. which was merged into the new US Embassy in Jerusalem in October 2018. Shtayyeh also denounced what he called “Israel’s attempts to Judaize the city of Jerusalem and divide the Al-Aqsa Mosque over time and l ‘space”.

Meanwhile, Italian leader Draghi said following his meeting with Shtayyeh that he would “continue to work to reduce tensions at all levels”. Draghi and Shtayyeh have signed six development deals worth 12 million euros, Italian news agency ANSA reported.

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