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Israel, U.S. May Shun Palestinian Gov't - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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JERUSALEM, (AP) – The U.S. and Israel agreed ahead of a three-way meeting with the Palestinians to shun any new Palestinian government that does not renounce violence, recognize Israel and accept existing peace agreements, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Sunday.

The so-called Quartet of Mideast negotiators — the U.S., European Union, U.N. and Russia — has set these demands as a condition for lifting crippling international sanctions. The platform of a new Palestinian power-sharing agreement, reached in Saudi Arabia earlier this month, speaks only of “respect” for existing peace deals.

Moderate Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Olmert are to meet separately on Sunday with Secretary Condoleezza Rice ahead of their three-way meeting on Monday. In a further indication of tensions before the meeting, Rice and Abbas canceled a press conference that had been scheduled to follow their one-on-one talks, Abbas’ office said.

Before meeting with Abbas, Rice told reporters the two would discuss the power-sharing agreement, as well as prospects for peace.

The purpose of the meeting Monday would be to “examine the current situation and to commit — recommit — to existing agreements but also to begin to explore and probe the political and diplomatic horizon,” she said.

The summit on Monday was initially billed as an attempt to revive long-stalled peace talks. But friction over the power-sharing deal has eclipsed that.

Olmert said at the start of the weekly Cabinet meeting that he and President Bush had spoken by phone on Friday about the deal and agreed the Palestinians had to go further.

“A Palestinian government that won’t accept the Quartet conditions won’t receive recognition and cooperation,” Olmert said. “The American and Israeli positions are totally identical on this issue.”

Neither Washington nor Israel have said, however, that they would boycott Abbas, who, as head of the Palestine Liberation Organization, would represent the Palestinians in any peace talks. Peace negotiations broke down more than six years ago in an explosion of violence between the two sides.

Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas, who has been charged with putting together the next government, said the Palestinians must hold firm against international criticism.

“We stand by President (Abbas) in defending this agreement and facing outside pressure, whether from the U.S. administration of others,” Haniyeh told reporters outside his office in Gaza City.

After meeting in Jerusalem on Saturday, Rice and Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni reiterated their demands that any Palestinian government toe the international line.

Livni said the power-sharing agreement does “not meet the requirements” of the international community.

Abbas, she added, must “isolate the moderates from the radicals in the Palestinian Authority.”

Rice said the United States would not judge the new Palestinian government until it has been established, but acknowledged the coalition talks were overshadowing Monday’s summit. Abbas aides have said U.S. officials warned them that Washington would boycott a government with the platform formulated in Saudi Arabia.

“We are between the announcement of the intention to form a government and the actual formation of that government,” Rice said. “Despite the complications it’s an important time to have these discussions.”

Abbas on Saturday told U.S. envoy David Welch that he had reached the best possible deal he could reach with Hamas, and that the world would have to live with it, Abbas aides said.

Abbas had tried during months of coalition talks to press Hamas to agree to abide by existing peace accords — something that would imply recognition of Israel — but yielded after multiple rounds of deadly Palestinian infighting.

Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat noted that Abbas, not the Palestinian government, would lead negotiations with Israel. In asking Haniyeh to form a new government earlier this week, Abbas reiterated his commitment to all agreements signed with Israel, including the pact of mutual recognition, Erekat said.

“Since the negotiations … are under the jurisdiction of the president and the PLO, it should be noted that the president reiterated the commitment to these principles,” he said.

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat is the world’s premier pan-Arab daily newspaper, printed simultaneously each day on four continents in 14 cities. Launched in London in 1978, Asharq Al-Awsat has established itself as the decisive publication on pan-Arab and international affairs, offering its readers in-depth analysis and exclusive editorials, as well as the most comprehensive coverage of the entire Arab world.

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