The United Nations, United States, European Union and Russia expressed hope Friday that a Palestinian power-sharing pact would end months of deadly factional violence. The so-called Quartet - which has been promoting Middle East peace efforts - welcomed Saudi Arabia's role in forging Thursday night's agreement to form a Palestinian national unity government during talks in the Muslim holy city of Mecca. "The Quartet expressed hope that the desired calm would prevail," the group said in a statement. The statement was issued after a telephone discussion earlier Friday by Quartet leaders - UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier whose country holds the EU presidency, and EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner.
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While awaiting the formation of a new Palestinian Authority government, the Quartet reaffirmed its February 2 statement supporting a Palestinian Authority government "committed to non-violence, recognition of Israel, and acceptance of previous agreements and obligations, including the roadmap" to Middle East peace.
The roadmap called for the Israelis and Palestinians to take a series of simultaneous steps that were supposed to lead to the establishment of a Palestinian state, but neither side has taken the initial steps in the more than three years since the plan was presented by the Quartet in May 2003.
Quartet members said they would meet February 21 in Berlin "to continue their consideration of these developments, and to review formation and implementation of the agreement on the government" and to "discuss the way ahead."
The members welcomed the February 19 meeting between Rice, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas.
Hamas said at the talks in Saudi Arabia that it would "respect" past peace deals with Israel as part of the power-sharing accord with the more moderate Fatah movement - appearing to concede in part to a key international demand that the militants recognize Israel.
EU diplomats and officials said they were keen to know exactly what Hamas means with the word "respect."
EU spokeswoman Emma Udwin said there was a need "to take the time to consider, to see what the agreement is and how it is going to be implemented," before deciding on lifting an international aid embargo on the Palestinians.
Steinmeier said he welcomed that the two sides "succeeded in agreeing to form a government of national unity."
"I hope that this agreement will bring inter-Palestinian violence to a halt," he said.
"Our expectations of the Palestinian side are clear," Steinmeier said in Berlin. "Violence against Israel must come to an end, the dialogue with the Israeli government started by President Abbas must be continued. The basis remains all the agreements to date between Israel and the (Palestinians), as well as the roadmap."
"We expect from all parties that they remain committed to the aim of a two-state solution, with mutual recognition," he said.
The Palestinian accord was to be on the agenda of EU foreign ministers talks on Monday in Brussels.