Hamas: U.S. blocking European efforts to end economic boycott

By News Agencies

Haaretz

Adar 4, 5767

Hamas accused the United States on Thursday of trying to thwart European efforts to ease an economic blockade of a new Palestinian unity government.

The Quartet, comprising the United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations, repeated a demand on Wednesday that any Palestinian government renounce violence, recognize Israel and respect interim peace deals.

The United States wants to continue to shun the government if it does not meet the three conditions, whereas Russia and other European governments favor a softer line.

Hamas said Thursday it was encouraged by what it called a "wait and see" approach by the Quartet of Middle East mediators towards the unity government.

"They [the Quartet] have decided to wait and see until the new government is formed and they have not rushed to reiterate the continuation of the siege and sanctions," Hamas cabinet spokesman Ghazi Hamad said. "They have left the door open for the possibility of opening a dialogue."

But Palestinian Information Minister Youssef Rizqa of Hamas said: "It [the United States] aims to undermine the European and Russian efforts in order to continue the siege imposed on our people."

Israel: Quartet holding firm to its three demands
The Foreign Ministry on Thursday said that a Quartet statement issued Wednesday was a sign that the group of international Middle East peace negotiators are holding firm on their three conditions.

Israel pointed to statements by the Quartet after a meeting in Berlin as a sign that the group would hold the new government to the three conditions. "They're not obstacles to peace, they are prerequisites for a successful peace process," Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev said.

The unity government deal between the ruling Hamas movement and Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah faction has widened divisions within the Quartet.

Citing the divisions, Hamas' Hamad said: "I believe there is a possibility to change the Quartet's position in a more positive manner to deal with the government."

Abbas political adviser Ahmed Abdel-Rahman said the Quartet "will open the door" to restoring ties with the Palestinian government once it fully understands the unity government deal.

Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas has said he hopes to announce a new government within three weeks.

Hamad said progress was being made and key decisions would be taken next week.

The unity agreement contained a vague promise to "respect" previous Israeli-Palestinian agreements but did not directly commit the new government to renouncing violence or recognizing Israel.

"In the unity government, we have adopted a political agenda that leaves a large amount of room for political movement that could be developed. The political agenda can be used by the international community to make a serious political process," Hamad said, though he gave no details.

Former Palestinian FM leading candidate for vice premier
Former Palestinian Foreign Minister Nasser al-Kidwa is currently the leading candidate for the position of Palestinian vice premier, Fatah's spokesman in the Gaza Strip, Abed al-Hakim Awad, told the al -Quds al-Arabi daily on Thursday.

Al-Kidwa is the nephew of Yasser Arafat and the former Palestinian ambassador to the United Nations.

Hamas is striving to gain on the Palestinian security forces ? currently under the exclusive command of Fatah ? and to influence matters of national defense.

Awad said that he hopes the negotiations between Hamas and Fatah over these matters won't strain the national unity government between the two sides.

Abbas asks EU to support new gov't
Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas on Thursday brought his struggle for Western support of the incoming coalition government to Germany, which holds the European Union presidency.

Abbas, who is seeking an end to the crippling international boycott of the Palestinian Authority, arrived in Berlin after meeting British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

He says the Palestinians are committed to rejecting violence, to international law and to meeting all agreements reached previously with
Israel - even though the power-sharing agreement between his Fatah faction and Hamas largely skirts these demands.

Abbas was holding talks with German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier on Thursday before meeting Friday with Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Meanwhile, Hamas political chief Khaled Meshal will travel next week to
Moscow for talks, the Russian Foreign Ministry said Thursday.

During Meshal's visit, Russia planned to continue its efforts toward
stabilizing the situation in the Palestinian territories and overcoming the inter-Palestinian discord that followed the Mecca agreement between Hamas and Fatah, the ministry said in a statement.

Russia also wanted to help in the forming of the unity government that takes into consideration the well-known criteria of the Quartet, and also the resumption of the Palestinian-Israeli dialogue, the ministry said.

Fawzi Barhoum, a Hamas spokesman in Gaza, confirmed the upcoming trip, saying it aim was to market the Mecca agreement and garner support for the new government.