Quartet ‘divided’ over Palestinians

“Paralysis” as Middle East mediators wait to see the new Palestinian government.

Quartet press conference
Rice, left, said it was not yet time to make a decision regarding the Palestinian unity government [AFP]
She said: “It’s not necessary to make decisions until there is something to make decisions about.”
‘Sense of paralysis’
Barnaby Phillips, reporting for Al Jazeera from Berlin, said:”There were differences.
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“Off the record, the Europeans say the Mecca agreement is positive and something to work on, they see it as an opportunity. But Rice sees it as a ‘complication’.”

“The general point is there is a slight sense of paralysis until people can see the new unity government.”
Russia had already called for the Quartet, comprising Russia, the US, EU and United Nations, to ease pressure on the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority.
Sergei Lavrov, Russia’ foreign minister, said earlier in an interview with the Rossiskaya Gazeta newspaper: “I hope that the quartet will favour a lifting of the financial and economic sanctions which were imposed by Israel. That will be the position of Russia, the European Union and the UN general secretary.”
Aid embargo
Russia has been reticent about maintaining an aid embargo imposed by Western governments after Hamas won elections last year and has urged a softening of the Quartet’s stance.

But Washington has made clear it will only have contact with a unity government that meets the quartet conditions, agreed after Hamas won Palestinian elections last year, to renounce violence, recognise Israel and abide by past Israeli-Palestinian accords.

Javier Solana, the EU policy chief, said: “I hope very much that the national unity government will be part of the solution, not part of the problem.”
The EU, like Russia, appears to favour a softer line, seeing the new Palestinian unity government as a solution to factional violence, although the EU has not pushed for a resumption of aid to the Palestinians.
The EU favours the continuation of a temporary financial mechanism which has permitted the delivery of $160m in humanitarian aid to certain Palestinian institutions, by-passing Hamas, since July last year.
‘Possibility for change’
Ghazi Hamid, the Palestinian cabinet spokesman, told Al Jazeera, “The position of the European is more flexible and more positive.”
Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, earlier said he was “encouraged” by the power-sharing deal agreed between Hamas and Mohammed Abbas, the Palestinian president and leader of Fatah, in Mecca on February 8.
Arab nations such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia, which helped broker the deal in Mecca, also say the unity government should be given a chance.
A meeting earlier this week in Jerusalem between Rice, Abbas and Ehud Olmert, the Israeli prime minister, made little progress in pushing the peace process forward except for a promise for Israeli and Palestinian leaders to meet again soon.
But Hamid, commenting on a press conference given by the Quartet, said “They didn’t talk about sanctions or boycott. This gives us hope that there is now a possibility for change.”
He said: “It is difficult for them to impose sanctions now … We are unified now, under one umbrella.”
Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies