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Ramallah (Palestinian Territories) (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 channelling 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.
At the end of August, a senior Palestinian official told AFP the government wanted to pay the wages in question, but was looking for "guarantees" that in doing so, it would not jeopardise international aid.
But he said an unidentified "third party" was working to solve the crisis by delivering the payments, with "positive indications" it would be resolved soon.
Hamas's 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 Mahmud Abbas lashed out at Hamas for effectively running a parallel administration and preventing the consensus government from operating in Gaza.
In June, Qatar said it would contribute a total of $60 million (44 million euros) towards the payment of the Gaza salaries, although so far, no money has been transferred.