DUBAI (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice denied in comments aired on Friday that the United States had decided to boycott all ministers of a Palestinian unity government now being formed.
In an interview with Al Arabiya television, Rice said Washington would reserve judgment on the new Palestinian government until it was formed but hoped it would respect the wishes of the Quartet of Middle East mediators that it accept existing interim peace accords and recognize Israel.
“We have said we will wait until the formation of the government before we decide how to deal with it, but we have made clear that there should be a commitment to the principles of the Quartet and that is the basis on which we will judge this government,” Rice said in comments that were dubbed into Arabic.
“There is no government so far and we will not judge it before its formation,” she said in excerpts of the interview aired on Arabiya’s news broadcasts.
It was not immediately possible to obtain the comments in their original English form.
A senior Palestinian official and diplomats said on Thursday the United States would boycott all Palestinian unity government ministers, including those who were not members of Hamas, until it was satisfied the government had met the demands of the Quartet — the United States, European Union, United Nations and Russia.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas formally asked Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas on Thursday to form a unity government and urged him to respect peace accords with Israel.
Haniyeh vowed to “work in accordance” with Abbas’s letter of designation but did not specifically say if Hamas would recognize the Jewish state or renounce violence.
Abbas reached an agreement with Hamas in Saudi Arabia this month over the formation of a unity government aimed at ending a Western blockade in place since Hamas came to power in March.
Rice is due to meet Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Feb 19 but uncertainty over the Palestinian unity government complicates the summit.
The meeting had been billed as the start of a new U.S. peace effort but some Israeli officials say it will now focus on U.S. and Israeli concerns over the unity government.