US quietly frees up frozen $500 million to Palestinian Authority

While Congress froze funding to the Palestinian Authority late last year, the State Department has quietly announced that nearly $500 million in aid has now been unblocked.

“To date, we have moved $295.7 million in fiscal year 2012 money… and $200 million in fiscal year 2013 assistance,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters, according to YnetNews.

The report breaks down the payments here:

The first sum comprises some $195.7 million, allocated under the 2012 fiscal year budget for USAID economic, development and humanitarian assistance, as well as a further $100 million earmarked specifically for narcotics control.

The second sum of $200 million unblocked and available to the Palestinian Authority will come under the 2013 budget and be spent for direct budget support.

Obama and Abbas
Photo credit: Issam Rimawi/Flash90

The State Department announcement comes on the heels of President Obama’s first trip to Israel and the West Bank since assuming office in 2009.

The Palestinian Authority is said to be suffering a deep economic crisis, as promised aid is not being delivered. The Obama administration has been pushing for release of Congressional aid funds for some time, notifying Congress in late February that it was seeking a further $200 million to fund US Agency for International Development (USAID) programs for the Palestinians, Nuland said. There was no indication if any conditions were made in exchange for the funds.

Secretary of State John Kerry joined Obama in a meeting with Abbas in Ramallah in the West Bank on Thursday. Kerry has pushed for the funds to be released since taking up his post on February 1, according to the report.

Read the entire YnetNews report here.


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