Defense Minister Ehud Barak _311.
(photo credit: Reuters/Blaire Gable)
Israel will negotiate with a Palestinian unity government if Hamas agrees to Quartet conditions and dismantles its terror infrastructure, Defense Minister Ehud Barak said in an interview with Israel Radio Tuesday.
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"The continuation of the peace process is in the interest of Israel, the Palestinians and the world," Barak said. "If Hamas adopts the Quartet's conditions and dismantles its terror infrastructure, we will negotiate with them."
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Israeli and Palestinian representatives have met in Amman several times in recent weeks in an attempt to agree upon a negotiations framework in the context of guidelines laid down by the Middle East Quartet: the US, EU, UN and Russia.
The Quartet-set January 26 deadline for presenting proposals is not a "holy date," Barak said, expressing hope that the Palestinians "will understand that it makes sense to continue" the talks further.
Emphasizing that Israel is preparing for all possible scenarios from successful negotiations to an outbreak of violence, Barak said, "We won't bury our heads in the sand and we will not abandon Israel's security interests."
"We must be prepared to shake hands with our left hand and have our finger on the trigger with our right hand," he added.
Responding to newly-imposed EU sanctions on Iran, Barak praised the new energy sector focused sanctions, but urged increased attention on Tehran's central bank.
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"We are seeing a big improvement in the sanctions, but it's still not enough and we need to tighten sanctions more," he said.EU foreign ministers on Monday agreed upon a phased ban on Iranian oil imports and to freeze the assets of the Iranian central bank, among other measures.
The EU's unprecedented effort to take Iran’s output of 2.6 million barrels of oil per day off international markets has already had an effect, pushing down Iran’s currency and causing a surge in the cost of basic goods for Iranians. Iran is the fifth largest oil exporter in the world.
But sanctions, Barak said, should be judged by their effect on Iranian behavior, not solely on their toughness. If the EU were to expand its central bank sanctions to the extent of its planned oil sanctions, he explained, it would have a powerful impact on Iran.
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