The European Union agreed on Friday an emergency aid scheme for the Palestinians bypassing the Hamas-led government and said it was close to winning the backing of international Middle East brokers for the plan.
“The European Council has endorsed our proposal for a temporary international mechanism,” a European Commission spokeswoman told a news briefing of an agreement reached by the bloc’s 25 member states at a summit in Brussels.
She added the EU was now “very, very close” to getting the endorsement of the so-called Quartet of international Middle East peace brokers, which also includes the United States, Russia and the United Nations.
The mechanism covers essential supplies to the health sector, utilities including fuel, and cash allowances to cover the basic needs of the poorest sections of the population.
Both the EU and the United States suspended aid to the Palestinian Authority as long as Islamic militant group Hamas refuses to recognize Israel and fails to renounce violence.
'Close to an agreement'
Diplomats said the EU would not have approved anything likely to be blocked by the other members of the Quartet.
“We are very close to an agreement,” EU External Affairs Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner told reporters earlier as she arrived for the summit, referring to the Quartet.
She will visit the region on Monday and Tuesday next week for meetings with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, her office said in a statement.
There had been signs the plan agreed to by the Europeans was at odds with two key players -- Israel and the United States --which have opposed payments of “salaries”.
Asked about those differences in approach with Washington, she replied: “I think it is very important to see that we have done this of course together with our partners and this is why we have negotiated and we have tried to find a solution with which everybody can live.”
The EU’s executive has said it hopes to have the mechanism up and running my the start of next month.