Norway ends Palestinian boycott

Israel vows to continue boycott of Palestinian government despite new unity cabinet.

    Abbas, right, with Haniya during the first cabinet meeting of the unity government [Reuters]
    Raymond Johansen, Norway's deputy foreign minister, said: "We hope that all the European countries, and even other countries, will ... support this unity government.
    "We hope that this unity government will work hard in order to fulfil the expectations from the international community."
    The EU's position on the unity government has yet to be announced.
    Economic sanctions
    Israeli officials have played down Johansen's meetings with Haniya and Ziyad Abu Amr, the new Palestinian foreign minister, saying economic sanctions against the Hamas-led government remain in place.
    At a joint press conference with Johansen, Abu Amr praised Norway's "daring position" in being the first European country to fully recognise the new government.
    Abu Amr said: "We have discussed many issues, including how to secure international support towards lifting the siege."
    Palestinians and Israelis negotiated their first interim peace deal in Oslo and signed the accord in Washington in 1993 clearing the way for setting up a Palestinian Authority.
    The unity government says it will "respect" previous agreements with Israel, but its platform does not call for recognising Israel and asserts that Palestinian resistance against the Israeli occupation in "all its forms" is a legitimate right.
    Uncertain policy
    On Sunday, Ehud Olmert, the Israeli prime minister, vowed to boycott the new government, including non-Hamas ministers, and said he would not discuss Palestinian statehood with Abbas.
    It is unclear how much support Olmert's policy has, both domestically and internationally.
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    Khaled Meshaal, Hamas political leader, speaking exclusively to Al Jazeera, said: "Everyone will have to deal with us as a unified governement, without discriminating between ministers."
    He expressed confidence in the Palestinian government's ability to overcome the financial difficulties, saying: "I don't think the international community will continue imposing a siege on the Palestinian Authorithy and punishing the Palestinian people.
    "The Arab states will take practical steps to implement the decisions taken at the Khartoum summit which define the financial commitment of the Arab states towards the Palestinian government."
    Diplomatic contacts
    An opinion poll in Israel's Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper showed 39 per cent of Israelis support talks with the new Palestinian unity government.
    Another 17 per cent backed talks with Fatah ministers only.
    While the US said it would boycott the new Palestinian government, it did not rule out unofficial talks with non-Hamas ministers.
    Britain plans to allow diplomatic contacts with non-Hamas ministers, and the UN is expected to follow suit.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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