The Palestinian Authority
will respect the decision of Arab countries if they choose to have relations with Israel
, even if those decisions are not in Palestinians' interests, Palestinian Foreign Minister Nasser al-Kidwa said Wednesday.
Egypt, Jordan and Mauritania are the only Arab countries to have full diplomatic relations with Israel.
Last month, Bahrain became the first Arab Gulf state to end its economic boycott of Israel, a move taken under a free trade deal with the United States
that could pressure neighboring countries to do the same.
"The settlement is still far off, but we respect the decisions of our friend countries ... including those which are not in harmony with Palestinian interests," Kidwa said.
He spoke to reporters after meeting with his Egyptian counterpart, Ahmed Aboul Gheit
, about Palestinian security issues, particularly in the Gaza Strip, which Israel withdrew from last month.
"The road is still long. Disengagement is just a step," Kidwa said.
Aboul Gheit stressed Egypt's emphasis that "security should be achieved in Gaza and that security chaos should be halted."
Gaza has been unruly since Israel's pullout, and the Gaza-Egypt border was overrun in the first week after the withdrawal, but Egyptian and Palestinian border guards have since established control. On Sunday, Hamas gunmen and Palestinian police engaged in a series of gun battles across Gaza City that killed three people and increased fears Gaza was devolving into chaos.
Israel's withdrawal from Gaza has helped to thaw relations somewhat with Arab and Muslim states.
In September, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf
met Prime Minister Ariel Sharon
in New York, and Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom held talks with his Qatari and Tunisian counterparts on the margins of the UN summit there.
Shalom has announced he will visit Tunisia in November. Tunisia broke off formal, low-level ties with Israel after the outbreak of violence five years ago, but retains some commercial relations.
Arab countries that oppose normalization say recent steps are rewarding Israel too soon.