The United States has quietly unblocked almost $500 million in aid to the Palestinian Authority which had been frozen by Congress for months.
An announcement of the renewed aid to the PA was made by a top U.S. official on Friday, shortly after President Barack Obama concluded his visit to Israel and the PA.
“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 AFP.
The Obama administration also notified Congress in late February that it was seeking a further $200 million to fund U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) programs for the PA, she added.
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.
The Palestinian Authority is facing what has been described as its worst economic crisis in years, in part because of a failure by donors to deliver pledged funds. But its finances were plunged further into chaos after PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas won upgraded UN observer status at the UN General Assembly in late November.
In response, Congress froze the U.S. administration’s requests for funds to the failing entity. However, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has been fighting to send the PA nearly $700 million in aid, despite major budget cuts and a fierce debate over where existing money should go.
Read More: Israel National News.