Palestinian FM calls for $500 million to support Arabs in east Jerusalem
Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki has called on Arab countries to raise $500 million at a summit in Libya this weekend to support Palestinians living in Jerusalem squeezed out by Israeli settlement building.
AFP - The Palestinian Authority hopes to raise 500 million dollars at an Arab summit this weekend for Jerusalem's Palestinians, who are being squeezed out by Israel's settlement drive in the Holy City, foreign minister Riyad al-Malki told AFP on Thursday.
"We have asked for half a billion dollars," Malki said in Sirte, Libya, where he was meeting with his counterparts ahead of the summit on Saturday and Sunday.
"It is a modest amount compared to what Israel and the Jewish communities around the world spend on settlements in east Jerusalem and which amounts so far to more than 17.4 billion dollars," he added.
Arab foreign ministers are preparing the agenda of the summit which is set to be dominated by the Middle East peace process after Israel said earlier this month it would build 1,600 new homes for Jewish settlers in east Jerusalem.
They met behind closed-doors in the morning and resumed their talks in the afternoon, when they are expected to discuss the size of the fund which could be allocated to Palestinian residents of Jerusalem.
A senior Palestinian official said the money would go towards improving infrastructure in mostly Arab east Jerusalem, building hospitals, schools, water wells and providing financial support to those whose houses have been demolished by the Israeli authorities.
"We are not asking for too much or for the impossible, or even for an amount of money which our Arab brothers cannot match," Maliki said.
He said the fund was a much-needed "support if we really want to bolster the presence of Palestinians in Jerusalem."
Israeli settlement plans have been condemned around the world and infuriated the Palestinians.
The United States and its partners in the Middle East diplomatic Quartet -- the European Union, Russia and the United Nations -- last week called for Israel to halt all settlement construction and for a peace deal with the Palestinians by 2012.
But Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned in Washington on Tuesday that peace efforts would be held up by what he called "unreasonable" demands for a freeze on new settlers homes in east Jerusalem and the West Bank.