Firmness in Quartet's position toward the PA not expected to change.
By HERB KEINON
Israel is not expecting any fundamental change in the Quartet's position toward the Palestinian Authority at a meeting of the Quartet principals in Berlin on Wednesday meant as a follow up to Monday's trilateral meeting, diplomatic sources in Jerusalem said Tuesday.
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice left Israel Tuesday morning for Jordan and a meeting with King Abdullah II, before flying to Berlin for the meeting. On February 2, shortly after the Mecca agreement, the Quartet met and once again said that the PA government must accept three basic principles: recognize Israel, renounce violence, and accept previous Israeli-Palestinian agreements.
Rice also met in Jordan with Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, the third time in as many days, and the two of them huddled in Amman with the USâ€š Arab allies.
Arab diplomats say Rice invited security and intelligence chiefs from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates to ask their advice on what, if anything, could be done to persuade Hamas to back down and accept the Quartet's three principles.
This meeting took place at the government security headquarters in Amman and included some of the region's best-connected fixers and go-betweens, including Saudi national security adviser Prince Bandar bin Sultan and Egyptian intelligence head Omar Sulieman.
Senior diplomatic sources told The Jerusalem Post following Monday's trilateral meeting in Jerusalem that the focus of diplomatic activity in the coming weeks would be to get more active, higher profile Saudi involvement either in getting Hamas to adopt the international community's three principles, or in having the Saudis resuscitate its diplomatic imitative from 2002.
Rice and Abbas met separately with Abdullah to brief him on Monday's meetings.
Abdullah, according to a Jordanian royal palace statement issued afterward, told Rice it was imperative that the United States sustain its efforts to revive the Palestinian-Israeli peace process.
"The longer the time passes without a framework that would help Palestinians and Israelis move forward, the greater the risk of an escalation of tensions," the palace quoted the king as telling Rice.
But Rice also let it be known over the last few days that she expected the moderate Arab states to get more involved.
Meeting in Jerusalem with the US traveling press after the trilateral meeting, Rice said: "I hope that the Arab states also understand that they have a role to play in this. You know, this isn't just what the United States can talk about with the Israelis and the Palestinians. How about some of the ideas that were there in the Arab initiative? Why can't we get some of that going, too? "I don't want others to stand on the sideline and say, you know, the United States needs to deliver the completion of the road map. Everybody's got obligations. And one thing that I'll be talking to the Arabs about is what can you to do make this happen," she said.
Even though there was no expectation of a change in Quartet policy, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni spoke on the phone Tuesday with EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana and several European foreign ministers including German's Frank-Walter Steinmeier, British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett and Italian Foreign Minister Massimo D'Alema.
Of the three countries, Italy, according to diplomatic officials, has of late pushed a more flexible EU policy toward the PA. The officials said that the US and the EU, currently headed by Germany, favored remaining firm in regards to the three principles.
There is less certainty, however, regarding the UN, under its new secretary-general Ban Ki-moon; and Russia has made it clear it wants to see engagement with the new PA government now.
Israel's ambassador to the UN, Dan Gillerman, said he expected the Quartet "to continue exerting pressure on the Palestinian leadership to embrace the three basic conditions."
Gillerman said that the only reason Hamas even sought a Palestinian unity government was because of the pressure placed on it by the international community.
"By displaying a united front, the international community has made clear to Hamas that it will not be engaged until it meets its responsibilities.
"Hamas's concept of national unity was created as a diversion to escape those responsibilities. But Hamas must now be made to understand that it cannot bypass these conditions," he said.
Livni, meanwhile, met visiting Latvian Foreign Minister Artris Pabriks on Tuesday and said the "agreements between Hamas and Abbas are disappointing to everyone who supported isolating the extremists from the moderates and creating a governmental alternative in the PA. The agreement does not meet the three requirements of the Quartet."
Repeating the message she delivered to her EU colleagues on the phone, Livni said that recognition of a PA government that did not meet the three conditions would endanger the ability to move toward a two-state solution.
Livni said that Israel made clear to Abbas at the trilateral meeting in Jerusalem that "our ability to continue a dialogue with him is dependent on his willingness to separate himself from Hamas both in declaration - supporting a two state solution, recognizing Israel, and commitment to the road map - and also in deeds: releasing Gilad Schalit, putting an end to the Kassam rocket fire and the arms smuggling."
AP contributed to this report.
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