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The block on funding to the Hamas-controlled Palestinian Authority will continue at least until a Quartet meeting on February 21 to consider the implications of the new unity government, State Department officials told The Jerusalem Post Friday.
In the meantime, the United States is considering its response to the Fatah-Hamas alliance, with administration officials saying they need more details on the plan and the make-up of the new government.
State Department Spokesman Sean McCormack did stress, however, that there would be no change in Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's trip on Feb. 19 to hold three-way talks with PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. In addition, there were no signs the unity deal would affect the $86 million allocated by President George W. Bush to help train and equip Abbas's security forces.
"At this point, we can't offer a reaction beyond the fact that we remain committed to a two-state solution and the Palestinian people deserve a
government that is committed to that goal and one that also is clearly committed to the principles outlined at the last meeting of the Quartet,"
McCormack said Friday, referring to the requirements that the Hamas-controlled PA recognize Israel, renounce violence and accept previous peace agreements as a condition for international aid.
A Quartet statement issued later Friday said that following a phone conversation of representatives from the four parties - the US, EU, UN and Russia - the group "reaffirmed" previous statements for "a Palestinian government committed to nonviolence, recognition of Israel, and acceptance of previous agreements and obligations, including the Roadmap."
It also mentioned the February 21 meeting in Berlin, in which members would "continue their consideration of these developments, and to review formation and implementation of the agreement on the government."
According to American Jewish leaders who held a closed-door meeting with the Secretary of State Thursday, Rice said that even under a unity government embracing the Quartet principles, the Bush administration would have no contact with Hamas ministers, since they continue to be part of a terrorist organization.
She also discussed the upcoming trilateral meeting, explaining that she wants the parties to start thinking about "final destination" issues even though there was no possibility of implementing an agreement any time soon given the reality on the ground.
In terms of demands placed on Israel, she stressed that the US wouldn't pressure Israel to make concessions it didn't want to make.