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Minister: Sweden may cut Palestinian aid

June 14, 2013 3:26 P.M. (Updated: July 12, 2013 3:13 A.M.)
STOCKHOLM (AFP) -- Sweden is considering slashing its aid to the Palestinian Authority because of a lack of progress in achieving a two-state solution, International Development Cooperation Minister Gunilla Carlsson said Friday.

She told public broadcaster Swedish Radio that aid paid out to the Palestinians to build up their administration in Gaza and the West Bank had been aimed at strengthening the Palestinian side ahead of a two-state solution with Israel.

"Is it worth it for us to continue helping them create the conditions necessary for a two-state solution if Israel and the Palestinians themselves don't want to sit down at the negotiating table?" she asked.

"I don't want to haggle with Swedish development aid, but I can only take the position of the Swedish taxpayers," she said.

"They want to see results. And if the prerequisites are not there to achieve results, then you have to accept the consequences," she added.

According to Swedish Radio, Sweden's annual aid to the Palestinians could be slashed by 200 million kronor ($31 million), out of a total of 700 million.

The left-wing opposition criticized the center-right government's way of thinking.

"To opt out of Palestine the way this government is considering doing is the wrong way to prioritize," the Social Democrats' spokesman on development aid, Kenneth Forslund, told Swedish Radio.

'Aid will still be there'

Days earlier in the West Bank, the minister told Palestinian media that Sweden and the European Union would continue to support projects in the occupied territories.

Carlsson said the "humiliation" of seeing European projects delayed or even destroyed by Israel's military would not dissuade the EU from assisting vulnerable Palestinians.

"European aid will still be there. And from Sweden we are assessing our new long-term strategy," Carlsson told Ma'an TV.

The minister said she hoped to persuade Israeli leaders in talks during her visit to "stop now the humiliation to me as a donor" when EU projects come under attack.

"I'm really curious now to talk with the Israelis to see what we can do together because European aid will still be there," she said. "We need to have a good, enabling political environment to make it really worthwhile."

She also said: "We are a longstanding partner with the Palestinians, with the PA. We are happy to work with them, to see that they have organized ... what we can call a foundation of a well-functioning state."

Carlsson arrived in the West Bank as a group of 80 international aid agencies urged the EU to support vulnerable Palestinian communities threatened with displacement by Israeli settlements.

The Association of International Development Agencies urged the EU to "effectively challenge Israeli government policies that are creating unbearable conditions" for Palestinians in Area C of the West Bank, under which Israel maintains full military and civil control under a 1995 agreement with the PLO.

"A year after all 27 EU countries committed to challenging settlement expansion, forced displacement, and demolition of Palestinian property ... approvals for illegal settlements have increased and hundreds of Palestinian homes and structures have been bulldozed despite EU saying this must stop," the report said.

Some 150,000 Palestinians live in Area C, which is also home to over 300,000 Israelis in settlements widely viewed as illegal under international law.

In May 2012, EU foreign ministers adopted recommendations for developing Area C and improving Israeli policies which it views as detrimental to Palestinian well-being.

George Hale in Bethlehem contributed reporting.
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