Saturday, March 17, 2007

France acknowledges Palestinian unity; will canada, or continue to bow to the US and Israeli Lobby?

US and Israeli governments block the way of the Palestinian unity government even before it was announced
(Omayya, Alhayat Aljadeeda, 3/17/07).

Israel rejects Palestinian unity gov't; Quartet divided

Aluf Benn, Yoav Stern and Amiram Barkat, Haaretz Correspondents and AP March 17, 2007

The Palestinian Authority announced yesterday the formation of a national unity government, after months of difficult negotiations. Israel was quick to reject it because its platform does not explicitly recognize Israel's right to exist.

However, France intends to support the new Palestinian government and will cooperate with it, according to PA foreign minister-designate Ziad Abu Amar.

Abu Amar said French Foreign Minister Phillipe Douste-Blazy invited him to a meeting in Paris and informed him that he hoped "a new page in the relations between the Hamas government and the international community" could begin.

Israel urged the international Quartet - the U.S., EU, UN and Russia - to maintain the aid embargo imposed on the Palestinian government following the electoral victory of Hamas, unless it fulfilled the three preconditions of recognizing Israel, relinquishing violence and accepting previous Israel-PLO accords.

The unity deal instead refers vaguely to respect for peace agreements and affirms the Palestinians' right to resist and defend themselves against Israeli aggression, though it also calls for maintaining and expanding a truce with Israel.

Initial U.S. and European reaction to the new government was cool, while Russia was relatively positive. Egypt and the Arab League welcomed the creation of the new government.

Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas said he hoped the new government would launch a new era for the Palestinians, putting an end to bloody Palestinian infighting while satisfying international demands and improving the Palestinian image in advance of the March 28-29 Arab League summit in Saudi Arabia.

White House spokesman Tony Snow said, "Our position has been consistent, which is, you need a Palestinian government that is going to, in fact, abide by the Quartet conditions."

Speaking to reporters Thursday, EU spokeswoman Emma Udwin said the European Commission had not yet assessed the new government's program.

In Moscow, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Mikhail Kamynin welcomed the development.

"It is inarguably an important event in terms of consolidation of the Palestinian ranks," he said in a statement, noting that the Mecca accord took into account the Quartet conditions.


PARIS, March 15, 2007 (AFP) - A new Palestinian unity government presented Thursday was hailed in the Arab world but received only a guarded welcome from the United States and Europe, while Israel formally rejected it outright.

"We will wait until the government is actually in place and we have an understanding of what their platform will be before we make any final judgements about it," US State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said.

The European Union reaction to the new government, uniting the radical Islamist Hamas movement with president Mahmud Abbas's secular Fatah party, was only slightly more upbeat.
"As we have said many times we are going to wait and see. Fortunately we have to wait and see a little less time now," EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said in Germany.

The Mideast Quartet -- the EU, the United States, Russia and the United Nations -- expects any new Palestinian government to recognise Israel, renounce violence and respect past agreements: the so-called three principles.

If these criteria are met the Quartet has said it would lift a financial embargo imposed directly on the Hamas-led government after the militant group swept to power in elections last year.
White House spokesman Tony Snow urged Abbas to find ways to abide by the internationally set conditions for Middle East peace, and to set the stage for talks with Israel.

"Rather than trying to express disappointment, or whatever, we still continue to hope that President Abbas is going to have the ability to in fact proceed along those Quartet conditions so that there can be talks with the government of Israel," he said.

Moscow, while welcoming the new government, expressed the hope that it would end the climate of uncertainty and chaos.

"We hope the government formed .. will become a factor that weighs towards the stabilisation of the situation in the (Palestinian) territories, ending the disagreements and chaos," said foreign ministry spokesman Mikhail Kamynin.

But Israel rejected contact with any government including Hamas, which it regards as a terrorist organisation.

"We will not recognise or deal with this government or with members of this government and we expect the international community to stand firm in their demand to adopt the three principles," government spokeswoman Miri Eisin told AFP.

A senior Israeli official earlier told AFP however that if Gaza militants released an Israeli soldier captured last year and stopped firing rockets at Israel, it would adopt a "pragmatic approach that will allow working with the government."

But French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin was more optimistic.

"I believe it can put an end to the current blockage and I hope so," he said, speaking from New York after a meeting with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

The Organisation of the Islamic Conference urged world powers -- and in particular the quartet -- to respond by lifting the financial embargo.

In a statement from the Jeddah-based 57-member organisation, OIC Secretary General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu expressed the hope that the new government would "receive full support from the Islamic world and the international community."

Arab League Secretary General Amr Mussa said the new government was "crucial to achieving stability and taking forward the peace process which president Mahmud Abbas leads in the name of every Palestinian."

"It's an important step towards ending political tensions, which will allow Palestinians to focus on their main cause: the creation of a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital," Mussa said in a statement.
Saudi King Abdullah, whose country hosted meetings between the rival Palestinian factions last month that paved the way for the formation of the new government, also hailed the development, official media said.

In a telephone conversation with Abbas the king "congratulated (him) on the success of Palestinian efforts in forming a Palestinian national unity government," SPA news agency reported.