Monday, 8 September 2014

Hamdallah: PA faces boycott threats over Hamas wages


RAMALLAH (AFP) -- The international community has threatened to boycott the Palestinian leadership if it pays the salaries of former Hamas employees in Gaza, Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah told AFP on Sunday.

In an exclusive interview, Hamdallah said he had been warned he would face problems if he visited the Gaza Strip without first regulating the problem of the salaries.

Hamdallah, who heads the Palestinian government of national consensus which took office on June 2, said the problem of the wages had turned into the main stumbling block to an intra-Palestinian reconciliation deal.

Since signing the agreement in April, Hamas has demanded the new government take responsibility for paying its 45,000 employees, some 27,000 of which are civil servants, he said. The rest are understood to be members of the Hamas police and security forces.

Before the Hamas government stepped down in June, it had been unable to pay their wages for months due to a biting economic crisis.

But Hamdallah said his government had been warned against channeling any money to anyone employed by Hamas, which is blacklisted by the US and Europe as a terror organisation.

"The government and the banks operating in the Palestinian territories were warned that if they make these payments to former Hamas government employees in Gaza then the government and the people will be boycotted," he said.

"If this happens, the Palestinian banking system will face a huge problem that will threaten the Palestinian situation in general," he told AFP.

The Palestinians are heavily dependent on international aid with a boycott likely to have a devastating financial impact on its financial viability.

Hamas' insistence on including the employees on the payroll of the new administration was "the main problem preventing the government from working in the Gaza Strip," Hamdallah said.

His remarks came a day after president Mahmoud Abbas lashed out at Hamas, blaming it for effectively running a parallel administration and preventing the consensus government from operating in Gaza.

In response to the Hamdallah's comments, Hamas on Sunday called on him to visit the Gaza Strip and take the responsibility his position requires.

"Hamdallah's refusal to come to Gaza because of alleged threats is an unacceptable position," Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said in a statement.

"He is the Minister of Interior, and all the police are under his command to provide his people with security," Abu Zuhri said.

"Hamas invites him to come to Gaza, take responsibility for its people, and stop making excuses." more

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