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At UN meeting, Quartet hopes new Palestinian government leads to renewed engagement

At UN meeting, Quartet hopes new Palestinian government leads to renewed engagement

Middle East Quartet (file photo)
A high-level meeting at the United Nations of key international partners in the Middle East peace process today welcomed efforts to form a Palestinian national unity government in the hope that it would commit to non-violence and recognize Israel’s right to exist, thus allowing for renewed engagement.

The so-called diplomatic Quartet on the Middle East, comprising the United Nations, United States, European Union (EU) and Russia, called for such a government to reflect Quartet principles.

Ever since Hamas, which is committed to Israel’s destruction, won parliamentary elections in January, the Quartet has called on it to commit to non-violence, recognize Israel and accept agreements already signed between Israel and the Palestinians.

The group, which is seeking a two-State solution, has frozen contacts and donors have withheld contributions pending acceptance of such terms by Hamas. Since then, the humanitarian situation in the occupied Palestinian territory has seriously deteriorated.

“The Quartet welcomed the efforts of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to form a government of national unity, in the hope that the platform of such a government would reflect Quartet principles and allow for early engagement,” the foursome said in a communiqué after the meeting, which was hosted by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

It expressed concern at the “grave crisis” in Gaza and the continued stalemate between Israel and the Palestinians and encouraged greater donor support to meet the needs of the Palestinian people, endorsing an expansion of the Temporary International Mechanism devised by the EU and the World Bank to channel aid directly to the Palestinian people by bypassing the Hamas Government.

The communiqué urged Israel, which has suspended all transfers of tax and customs revenues it collects on behalf of the Palestinian Authority, to resume such payments through the temporary mechanism. It also welcomed the prospect of a meeting between Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and President Abbas.

It reaffirmed its commitment to the so-called Road Map plan which seeks the establishment of two democratic states – Israel and Palestine – living side by side in peace and security, originally slated for realization at the end of last year.

Besides Mr. Annan, the meeting was attended by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, the EU’s High Representative for a Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana, Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja of Finland, which currently holds the EU Council presidency, and European Commissioner for External Relations Benita Ferrero-Waldner.