Mideast peacemakers mull aid to Palestinians

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BRUSSELS (AP) — Increased aid to the Palestinian Authority may help revive the stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace process, Norway’s foreign minister said on Tuesday ahead of talks with U.S. peace envoy George Mitchell.

International peace envoy Tony Blair joined Mitchell and the French, Norwegian and Spanish foreign ministers at the meeting to discuss continued financial support for the Palestinians.

Blair’s office said the consultations were aimed at reviewing the status of political efforts to prepare the Palestinians for statehood as part of the international community’s long-term effort to achieve peace between them and Israel.

“There is a link between the financial support we provide and the outlook for the peace process,” Norway’s Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere said.

The European Union is a major donor to the Palestinian Authority, contributing more than 200 million euros to help cover its budget deficit last year. Catherine Ashton, the EU’s incoming foreign policy chief, also attended the talks in Brussels.

The meeting comes as the Obama administration is gearing up to try to relaunch stalled Israeli-Palestinian talks.

They broke off a year ago, mainly over the issue of Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian land. Israel committed to a full settlement freeze under a 2003 peace plan but did not meet that obligation. The Palestinians say there is no point negotiating while Israel expands the settlements.

On Monday, Mitchell asked for European Union support for a renewed push for peace in the Middle East. He said he had ben urging the leaders of Israel and Palestine, to come back to the negotiating table despite “some conditions and there are some political difficulties for parties to come to the dialogue table at this time.”


Associated Press correspondent Ian MacDougall in Oslo, Norway, contributed to this report.