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France Says Europe Should Renew Aid to Palestinians

Palestinian Foreign Minister Ziad Abu Amr says he expects the international community to restore aid to the Palestinians, now that there is a new unity government. The Palestinian official made the comment in Paris during talks with his French counterpart, who expressed agreement. Anita Elash in Paris has this report for VOA.

This is Ziad Abu Amr's first visit to a European capital since the Palestinians formed a unity government last month. He is looking for support from European leaders, and hopes to convince them to lift a Western embargo on direct aid to the Palestinians. By coming here, he has chosen a receptive audience. France has been more supportive of the Palestinians than other European countries, which have been divided on how to deal with the Palestinians, since the Hamas party was voted into power last year.

The new unity government includes members from both Hamas and Fatah, as well as several independents. The United States considers Hamas a terrorist organization.

Abu Amr told a French newspaper he believes Hamas is ready to change And he told Voice of America that Hamas is committed to supporting a renewed peace process.

"Hamas as part of the government is bound by the program of the government, which talks about negotiations and peace, which talks about a two-state solution, which is committed to a program that is now consistent with the demands of the international community," said Ziad Abu Amr.

He did not say whether Hamas was ready to recognize Israel and denounce violence, two key demands of the Western community.

After meeting with Abu Amr, French foreign minister Philippe Doust-Blazy said western leaders should progressively restore aid, provided the Palestinians live up to international expectations.

But he said the new government must make some additional gestures to win Western confidence. He said that releasing an Israeli soldier kidnapped by Hamas last summer could help restore aid.