The European Union will continue to insist that before the Palestinian Authority government gains international legitimacy it must adopt policies reflecting a willingness to recognize Israel, forswear terrorism, and accept previous Israeli-Palestinian agreements, a senior EU official said Wednesday. His comments came a day after Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Saltanov said that Moscow would use Friday's Quartet meeting in Washington to urge the lifting of economic sanctions on the PA.
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"Russia has always argued against the blockade and we expect the Quartet to listen to our view," Interfax quoted Saltanov as saying.
But the EU official said he did not envision a change in the EU position regarding the well-known three international principles for dealing with the Hamas-led PA government. The Quartet is made up of the US, European Union, Russia and the UN.
Another issue that will loom large at the Quartet meeting in Washington is the internal Palestinian strife, and the EU official said that it was clear that PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas "is our interlocutor, and we want to support him in his endeavor to stop the fighting." He said that he did not know whether the EU would, as the US has done, allocate funds to strengthen Abbas.
US President George Bush on Tuesday directed the State Department to transfer more than $86 million to the Palestinian security forces under Abbas's control.
The EU official said the goal of the upcoming Quartet meeting would be to build on and consolidate what he said were recent positive developments on the Israeli-Palestinian front. He said these were the bilateral dialogue between Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Abbas that has been established, as well as Israel's policy of restraint, the releasing of $100m. of PA tax revenue to Abbas, and facilitation of freer movement in the West Bank.
In an apparent reference to recent talk of the need to provide the Palestinians with a political horizon, the EU official said that it was important to make clear to the Palestinians that they faced a choice between radicalism that would only deepen the conflict, and the moderates represented by people like Abbas. The Palestinians must realize, he said that "confrontation has no room, and will only lead to negative results."
Regarding the presence of the EU monitors in Rafah, known as EU BAM Rafah, the EU official said that his feeling was that Israel wanted to see the mission extended beyond its mandate in May, and that although satisfied in general with its performance, Israel wanted to add provisions to the agreement governing the Rafah Crossing to make it more difficult for unwanted cash, people and goods to move in and out of Gaza.
He said that agreements on these matters would have to be made between Israel, Egypt and the Palestinians. The EU official said he did not know of any discussion about bringing EU monitors to help patrol the Philadelphi Corridor or the long border with Egypt, and that for this to happen there would have to be agreement on the matter among the parties.
Asked whether the EU favored Israeli talks with Syria, the EU official said that the EU did not have a unified position on the matter.
While some inside Europe have supported Israeli-Syrian talks, others - specifically France - have made clear that they did not think anything positive could come out of such contacts, and would only bolster Syrian President Bashar Assad's position.