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Quartet Urges Palestinian Unity Government to Recognize Israel

21 February 2007

The international quartet on the Middle East has urged the pending new Palestinian unity government to recognize Israel's right to exist. The Quartet meeting, late Wednesday in Berlin, followed U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's three-way talks Monday with Palestinian and Israeli leaders. VOA's David Gollust reports from the State Department.

The meeting of the quartet - which includes the United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations - produced a statement reiterating that recognizing Israel and renouncing violence should be conditions for a Palestinian role in peace talks.

But there was apparent discord within the quartet over continuing the political and economic embargo of the Palestinian government imposed when the militant Islamic group Hamas took control after its election victory last year.

With the mainstream Fatah movement set to join Hamas in a unity deal brokered earlier this month by Saudi Arabia, Russia and some European Union countries argue that political contacts and direct aid to the Palestinian government should be at least partly restored.

At a Berlin news conference, Secretary of State Rice said all those concerned should withhold judgment until the makeup and political platform of the new Palestinian government are known.

But she also made clear that it will be problematic for the United States to deal with a Palestinian government that does not explicitly accept the quartet principles:

"When one talks about a political horizon, when one talks about peace between Israelis and Palestinians, it has to be on the basis of internationally accepted principles," said Condoleezza Rice. "How can it be that you will have talks about peace, when one party does not accept the right of the other party to exist? How can it be that you have discussions about peace when a party will not renounce violence?"

Rice said that regardless of the new government's platform, the United States will continue to deal with the politically-moderate Palestinian Authority chief Mahmoud Abbas.

The Secretary of State briefed the quartet members on her meeting Monday in Jerusalem with Mr. Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

The meeting was described as the first discussion of final-status issues of the Middle East peace process in six years, but it produced little apparent progress other than an agreement by the Israeli and Palestinian leaders to meet again soon.

The quartet statement, read at the news conference by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, expressed appreciation for the role of Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah in brokering the unity deal and ending intra-Palestinian violence.

It said the quartet would be prepared to support a Palestinian government committed to non-violence, recognition of Israel, and acceptance of previous agreements and obligations, including the quartet's 2003 road map to a two-state solution of the Middle East conflict.

Hamas leaders have in recent days reiterated they have no intention of recognizing Israel, but say they do accept Mr. Abbas' role as official representative of the Palestinians in international affairs.

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