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Middle East

Volume 450: debated on Friday 20 October 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if she will make a statement on the proposed extension of the Temporary International Mechanism to deliver aid to the Palestinians; and when it is expected to take effect. (94255)

I have been asked to reply.

On 20 September, the Quartet (EU, UN, US and Russia) met in New York and endorsed the continuation and expansion of the Temporary International Mechanism (TIM) for a three-month period, and agreed to again review the need for such a mechanism at the end of that period.

The EU had already expanded the TIM in response to the G8 statement of 16 July. The scope was widened to include more of the poorest Palestinian Government workers. Workers in the medical sector, PA employees who earn less than 2,000 New Israeli Shekels a month, pensioners, and recipients of welfare from the Palestinian Ministry of Social Affairs have received allowances through the TIM. This totals 98,000 recipients. Their allowances help them to continue working and provide their families with a modest income, and help to inject money into the Palestinian economy.

In the light of the serious humanitarian situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, the EU is considering how further to expand the TIM. Officials discussed the issue in Brussels on 10 October. The plans currently under consideration would increase the number of recipients of TIM allowances considerably while maintaining the rigorous auditing procedures that have been applied so far. The World Bank is expected to provide support for the water, sanitation and electricity sectors and to deliver essential medical supplies in November.

As I reported to the House on 9 October, the UK has committed a total of £9 million to the TIM. Of this, £3 million is for allowances to the poorest Palestinian Government workers, £3 million is for essential medical supplies and £3 million is for water, sanitation and electricity. I intend to allocate a further £3 million to the TIM as the need for further funding arises. This is in addition to the UK’s contribution to European Community support. European Community support for the Palestinians in 2006 totals more than €340 million. This is considerably more than the European Community has given on average in recent years.