A top US diplomat met Tuesday with Palestinian Finance Minister Salam Fayaad, the first American contact with a member of the new Palestinian government, Palestinian officials said. The meeting signaled a break in policy between Israel and the US, its closest ally. Israel has announced a boycott of the new Hamas-Fatah coalition because of the coalition's failure to accept international calls to renounce violence and explicitly recognize the Jewish state's right to exist.
Peres hails US, EU embargo on PA gov't
The US had signaled in recent days that it would maintain contact with moderates who accept the international conditions, such as Fayaad.
Jacob Walles, the US consul general in Jerusalem, met with Fayaad in the West Bank town of Ramallah, said Palestinian Information Minister Mustafa Barghouti.
"This is part of the ordinary meetings that Palestinian ministers are conducting with the international community," Barghouti said.
Micaela Schweitzer-Bluhm, spokeswoman for the US consulate, would not confirm or deny the meeting.
An Israeli official said the government was waiting for official US comment before responding. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because there was no official U.S. confirmation.
The US is a member of the "Quartet" of Mideast peace makers, along with the EU, UN and Russia. The new government is trying to persuade the Quartet to lift painful economic sanctions imposed after the radical Islamic group Hamas came to power in elections a year ago.
The Palestinians hope the new government, which includes Hamas and members of the more moderate Fatah party, will now end the isolation.
Fayaad, an internationally respected economist, is at the forefront of efforts to persuade the international community to lift the sanctions.