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Published:September 21st, 2006 11:18 EST
Rice says Palestinian government must be committed to peace

Rice says Palestinian government must be committed to peace

By SOP newswire

United Nations -- The Quartet for Middle East peace September 20 endorsed the efforts of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to form a government of national unity and recognized the need to continue humanitarian aid to the Palestinian people.

The Quartet – the United Nations, the European Union (EU), Russia and the United States -- "discussed and indeed welcomed the efforts of [Mahmoud Abbas] to deal with the difficult circumstances in the Palestinian Territories," Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said after the meeting.  "We noted again the importance of the formation of a Palestinian government that would be devoted to and respectful of the principles of the Quartet."

"[Y]ou cannot have peace if you do not recognize the right of the other partner to exist and that the renunciation of violence is a key to negotiations," Rice said. "If indeed there is going to be a government that is able to govern, it needs the support of the international community and it needs to be committed to peace."

After a three-hour meeting, representatives of the Quartet -- U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, Rice, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Finish Foreign Minster Erkki Tuomioja, EU Representative Javier Solana and European Commissioner for External Relations Benita Ferrero-Waldner -- issued an official statement reaffirming its "commitment to the road map as the means to realize the goal of two democratic states -- Israel and Palestine -- living side by side in peace and security."

"The Quartet welcomed the efforts of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to form a government of national unity, in the hope that the platform of such a government would reflect Quartet principles and allow for early engagement," the group said in an official statement issued after the meeting on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly.

The Quartet called for a three-month extension and the expansion of the "temporary international mechanism" created in June to channel aid to the Palestinians without going through the Hamas-led government.  It also encouraged greater donor support to meet the needs of the Palestinian people, especially on security-sector reform, reconstruction of damaged infrastructure and economic development. (See related article.)

The Quartet also endorsed Annan’s initiative to have James Wolfensohn, former World Bank president, report on the economic and humanitarian situation.

It has been difficult for the Hamas-led Palestinian government to deliver on its promises for a better life for the Palestinian people, Rice said.

"The Palestinians need a government that is committed to the decadelong effort between Palestinians and Israelis to find a route to peace, to commitments that have been taken on behalf of the Palestinian people, and quite simply, to a set of agreements that the international community indeed supports," she said. "Until there is such, it's going to be very difficult for that government to function."

The statement is an indication of the strengthening of the common position among the members of the Quartet, a senior State Department official said.  There is a realization collectively that the Hamas government is failing to meet its duties as a government and not subscribing to the principles of the Quartet.  Those principles, reiterated in the communiqué, include the recognition of Israel’s right to exist, the renunciation of violence and acceptance of all existing agreements between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

The official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, called the communiqué "a forthright statement of the criteria for any Palestinian government."

The official said the Hamas government has failed as yet to meet the standards set forth by the Quartet and shows no inclination to accept them.

The Quartet also encouraged Israel to consider transferring impounded Palestinian tax and customs revenue through the temporary international mechanism set up to improve the economic and humanitarian conditions in the West Bank and Gaza.  Israel, which collects taxes and customs duties on goods destined for the Palestinian Territories, halted transfer of those tax revenues to the Palestinian government after Hamas took control earlier in 2006.

For further information, see The Middle East: A Vision for the Future.

Text of the Quartet statement is available on the U.N. Web site.

(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)