EU stance on PA gov't priority for foreign ministers

Will not evaluate next steps until unity, policies are formed.

Abbas Mecca 224.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
Abbas Mecca 224.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
Some European Union governments are signaling that they would favor early encouragement of the new Palestinian government - a stance that could test the bloc's unified position on Hamas when foreign ministers meet Monday. EU foreign ministers gather in Brussels for two days of pre-summit talks that are expected to focus on the recent Palestinian accord establishing a unity government - and the 27-nation bloc's stance as the government takes office in coming weeks. The Europeans, like the United States, have demanded that the Palestinian government recognize Israel and renounce violence. But some EU members may push for recognition of the new Palestinian government - even before leaders from Hamas movement fulfill international demands on Israel. "Clearly the French would like to adopt a more pragmatic position, but this is not something Germany, for instance, would agree to," said Dominique Moisi, an analyst with the Institute for International Relations in Paris. He said France probably would accept assurances that Hamas will give up violence, leaving recognition of Israel for a later date. EU officials dismissed suggestions of a rift between nations that are traditionally pro-Arab, such as France, Belgium or Spain, or staunch supporters of Israel such as Germany or the Netherlands. They say they will wait and watch how rival Palestinian factions Hamas and the more moderate Fatah divide up Cabinet posts and finalize the official Palestinian government policy on Israel. "We can't evaluate what we're going to do until we see what this new government is, what its intentions are and what it will do," EU spokeswoman Emma Udwin said. One of the new Palestinian government's top goals is to win back foreign aid to the Palestinian Authority cut off by the US and EU last year after Hamas won legislative elections and took over the government. Israel also froze transfers of customs duties, a major source of funding. The embargo has exacerbated tensions between Fatah and Hamas. Fatah, led by Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, is eager to restart peace efforts with Israel. But Hamas, while signaling some pragmatism, has refused to abandon its commitment to Israel's destruction. After months of infighting and deadly violence, the factions recently signed the Saudi-brokered Mecca Accords calling for the formation of a joint government. In the accord, Hamas agrees to "respect" past Palestinian agreements with Israel, sidestepping international demands that it explicitly recognize the Jewish state. The deal could also test the cohesion of the Quartet - the US, EU, Russia, and the United Nations - negotiating Middle East peace. Washington has reacted coolly to the accord, saying it falls short of the international demands. But Russia, which has sought to play a more prominent role in Middle East peace efforts, has urged lifting the financial aid blockade. And some European nations, led by France, have implied that they, too, would prefer engaging rather than isolating the nascent coalition. Last month, French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy pledged France's cooperation with the new government after meeting with Abbas.