Quartet approves gov't with Hamas
Israel concerned by US support; Bush: Abbas is a 'man of peace.'
By NATHAN GUTTMAN, JPOST STAFF
September 20, 2006 19:09
2 minute read.
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The International Quartet - the United Nations, the United States, the European Union and Russia - declared its support on Wednesday night for Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas's efforts to form a unity government with Hamas.
It was the first time the US had supported the idea of a Palestinian government that included the Hamas movement.
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In its decision, the Quartet said it hoped the new PA unity government would recognize Israel, renounce terrorism and accept previously signed agreements, however, the Quarter did not set the three principles as a condition for its acceptance of the new proposed government.
Israeli diplomats were surprised by the US's support for a Hamas-Fatah government and senior sources in Jerusalem said there would be no change in Israel's stance, namely, that it would not recognize Hamas nor any organization of which Hamas was a member.
Former foreign minister Silvan Shalom called the move a "political collapse," adding that it was a grave decision which was made behind Israel's back and that it amounted to the end of the isolation of Hamas.
Earlier Wednesday, in his first meeting with Abbas since Hamas came to power, US President George W. Bush praised the Palestinian leader, calling him "a man of peace." In the meeting, which was held in New York, Bush repeated his commitment to promote a two-state solution and lead to an independent Palestinian state, making clear that he sees Abbas as a partner for this mission.
"I fully understand that in order to achieve this vision, there must be leaders willing to speak out and act on behalf of people who yearn for peace, and you are such a leader, Mr. President," Bush said, while standing next to Abbas at the Waldorf Astoria hotel. "I can't thank you enough for the courage you have shown."
Abbas told Bush that the Palestinian people were in dire need of help and said he was looking forward to the US's assistance.
In the meeting, which lasted 40 minutes, Bush and Abbas discussed the future of the Middle East peace plan. Palestinian sources said Abbas asked Bush to work for the renewal of the road map plan. Bush, according to White House officials, stressed the need for direct talks between Abbas and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.
The meeting between Bush and Abbas was seen as part of an effort by the US administration to restart the peace process and find a way to keep open channels of communication with the Palestinians without dealing directly with Hamas.