Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas on Thursday brought his struggle for Western support of his incoming coalition government with the Islamic militant group Hamas to Germany, which holds the European Union presidency. Abbas, who is seeking an end to the crippling international boycott of the Palestinian Authority, arrived in Berlin after meeting British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
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The PA chairman says the Palestinians are committed to rejecting violence, to international law and to meeting all agreements reached previously with Israel - even though the power-sharing agreement between his Fatah faction and Hamas largely skirts these demands.
Abbas was holding talks with German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier on Thursday before meeting Friday with Chancellor Angela Merkel.
The Palestinians have yet to form a government on the basis of the power-sharing agreement struck in Mecca, Saudi Arabia.
Hamas's rejection of international demands to recognize Israel is proving a problem abroad, and Israel has ruled out talks on a final peace deal with Abbas if he goes ahead with plans for the unity government.
Abbas's job in Europe will be to persuade the EU to keep an open mind, said regional expert Thomas Birringer.
"The Mecca deal is not enough," said Birringer, resident representative of Germany's Konrad Adenauer Foundation in the Palestinian territories.
"There are voices that still say 'no cooperation with a government in which Hamas is participating'," said Birringer. "I think Abbas will try to keep people from closing the door before there is a government."
He said finding a finance minister who enjoys trust will be key. The EU was the major donor for the Palestinian authority, but aid has been cut off since Hamas, which seeks Israel's destruction, won parliamentary elections.
Abbas is in a difficult position since many see Hamas as having the upper hand, said Turi Munthe, associate fellow at the Royal United Service Institute in London.
"The problem is that Hamas is considered to be more powerful than Fatah at the moment," he said.
Munthe said Abbas was unlikely to persuade the Germans, who hold the rotating EU presidency, to relax any of the demands from the Middle East Quartet - the EU, UN, US and Russia - who are pushing for a solution to the conflict. But he may be able to get some sympathy from Russia.
"They (the Germans) are going to be extremely cautious about any shifting away from the three points of the Quartet," Munthe said.
"The Russians are a different color fish. They have been much more pro-lifting the economic blockade."
Abbas has said that the main purpose of the accord was to halt Palestinian infighting, which killed more than 130 people in recent months. However, restoring Western aid is also important; it made up about half the income of the Palestinian government, which has been bankrupted by the cut.
The EU, US and Israel list Hamas a terror group because of suicide bombings that have killed dozens of Israelis.
Barah Mikail of the Institute of International and Strategic Relations in Paris expressed doubt that Abbas's visit would bring about any major shift in Europeans' positions.
"Abbas could try to some degree to soften the position or positions of certain European countries, namely Britain, Germany and of course France," he said. "But beyond that I doubt that any pressure he could apply in favor of a full recognition of this unity government could overcome the will of the members of the Quartet."
"The demands of the Quartet are clearly in contradiction with Hamas's posture."