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United States Welcomes Saudi Effort To Resolve Palestinian Feuds

09 February 2007

U.S. officials withhold comment on formation of national unity government

Washington – The United States welcomed the efforts of Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah to bridge the divide between rival Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas during two days of negotiations in the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, but U.S. officials declined to comment on the February 8 announcement that the two sides have reached agreement on the formation of a national unity government.

“We do not yet have all the details of either the program of this government of national unity or the composition,” said State Department spokesman Sean McCormack during a February 9 press briefing.  “The details matter in this regard. … We believe that the government should be clearly and credibly committed to the principles reiterated by the Quartet at its meeting last week in Washington and should be a partner in peace.”

Following Hamas’ January 2006 electoral victory, the Quartet, which includes the European Union, Russia, the United Nations and the United States, demanded that the new government renounce violence, recognize Israel and accept all previous agreements between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.  In subsequent meetings, including a February 2 gathering in Washington, the group has reiterated its demands.  Because the Hamas-led government has refused to meet those conditions, international donors have suspended their financial assistance. (See related article.)

In a February 9 statement, the Quartet urged the new unity government to respect these principles.  The group said it plans to meet in Berlin February 21 to review developments associated with the formation of the new government.

McCormack said that adherence to the Quartet’s principles and peaceful negotiations are in the interest of the Palestinian people.  “The Palestinian people deserve a government that is committed to the pathway of peace.  It's very clear.  That is the way that the Palestinian people will realize a Palestinian state -- through the pathway to negotiation,” he said.

In recent months, armed clashes between supporters of Fatah and Hamas have left dozens of Palestinians dead.  The new accord seeks to end that violence by setting out a power-sharing agreement in which Hamas reportedly retains nine Cabinet posts while Fatah assumes six.  According to news reports, independent politicians will be named to the key ministries of foreign affairs and the interior.  The agreement leaves Hamas’ Ismail Haniyeh in the position of prime minister.

State Department deputy spokesman Tom Casey expressed the hope that this agreement will bring calm to the Palestinian Territories.

“We certainly want to see an end to violence, whether that violence is Palestinian and Israeli or intra-Palestinian violence.  It certainly doesn’t serve the interests of the Palestinian people and of course it certainly doesn’t serve the interests of the international community for there to be any kind of fighting in the territories,” he said.

For more information on U.S. policy, see The Middle East: A Vision for the Future.

(USINFO is produced by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)

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