The Arab League appealed to member states Sunday to bolster financial help to the Palestinian territories after US lawmakers froze about $200 million in aid in response to Palestinians' UN statehood bid.
"It is necessary for the member countries of the League to increase their financial aid to the Palestinian people so they can face this threat," said Arab League Secretary General Nabil al-Arabi after talks in Cairo with chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat.
Members of the US House Foreign Affairs Committee and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee have frozen the funding to the Palestinians "until the Palestinian statehood issue is sorted out," one of the aides told AFP on Saturday.
The economic package is separate from security aid, which the US lawmakers say would be counterproductive to block. They fear that withholding those funds would weaken the ability of Palestinian security forces to quell anti-Israel violence.
A coalition of Israel-backing Democrats and conservative Republican lawmakers are angered by the Palestinian bid for United Nations membership. Both the United States and Israel insist that only direct negotiations can produce an accord leading to Palestinian statehood.
"It is the right of the Palestinians to have their state, a full member of the United Nations, like other peoples of the world," Arabi said.
Erakat for his part declared that the "Palestinian people refuse to allow economic aid to become an instrument of blackmail regarding its rights to membership of the United Nations."
"We appreciate the American aid but we won't allow it to become an instrument of blackmail," he said.
Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas made a historic bid for UN membership on September 23. But the United States has vowed to veto the application if it comes to a Security Council vote.
The diplomatic Quartet on the Middle East -- the United States, Russia, European Union and United Nations -- has launched a new bid to get direct talks resumed with a firm timetable for an accord.