U.S. 'disturbed' by 'right to resist' clause in PA unity gov't platform
Norway recognizes unity gov't, to restore economic ties; EU: Renewal of aid depends on coalition's actions.
The United States said Saturday it was disturbed by the Palestinian unity government's claim of a right to resist Israel and disappointed by Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh's speech on Saturday expressing that right.
"The national unity government's platform reference to the right of resistance is disturbing and contradicts the Quartet principles of renunciation of violence," U.S. State Department spokeswoman Nancy Beck said.
"The prime minister's speech to the Palestinian Legislative Council was disappointing and inconsistent with the Quartet principles as well as the national unity government's adherence to the foundational principles of peace," she said.
Israeli officials said Saturday that Israel would not have any contact with the new government or any of its ministers, and that it expects the international community "to stand by the principles that it itself has determined."
The Foreign Ministry waged a diplomatic offensive this weekend in an effort to prevent a "collapse" in the position of the international community towards the new government.
The diplomatic efforts were centered on the policy of the European Union.
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni on Friday telephoned colleagues in Britain, Russia and Germany urging them to stand by the principles demanded by the Quartet of Mideast peace negotiators.
A draft initiated by Ireland and Spain calls for normalization with the new government without preconditions.
Britain, by contrast, intends to pursue a policy of dealing with Fatah lawmakers while ignoring those affiliated with Hamas.
British officials told their Israeli counterparts Friday that the United States support this position, a claim Washington denies.
Livni told British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett that the new Palestinian government should be dealt with as a single organization, and that it is impossible to prevent money given to Fatah members from being transferred to Hamas.
Officials in Jerusalem said Friday that Israel was having difficulty convincing the U.S. not to deal with Fatah lawmakers in the government, particularly those who have had good relations with the U.S. and EU.
Also on Saturday, the Jordanian government wished the new Palestinian cabinet success and urged it to "shoulder its responsibilities" in such a manner that leads to the lifting of the "siege" imposed on the Palestinian people.
Earlier Saturday, Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere said his country would re-establish political and economic relations with the new Palestinian government, and the European Union welcomed the government's formation but said a resumption of aid would depend on an assessment of the new cabinet's platform and actions.
"The Presidency of the EU welcomes the formation of a Palestinian Government of National Unity pursuant to the agreement reached in Mecca on 8 February 2007, which lays the foundation for Palestinian reconciliation," a statement issued by EU president Germany said.
"The Presidency of the EU recalls the readiness of the EU to work with and to resume its assistance to a legitimate Palestinian government adopting a platform reflecting the Quartet principles. The EU will carefully assess the platform and actions of the new government and its ministers," it said.
The Norwegian foreign minister said the Hamas-Fatah coalition was taking steps toward complying with international demands.
"Norway will thus on this basis re-establish political and economic relations with the Palestinian government," he said.
Norway is not a member of the European Union, but has been a key player in Middle East peacemaking and one of the most steadfast contributors to the Palestinian Authority.
"Norway expects the Palestinian authorities to respect basic international standards as regards compliance with previously concluded agreements, renunciation of violence and recognition of Israel's right to exist," Stoere said.
He also called on Israel to "take a constructive approach to the unity government, for example by releasing withheld Palestinian revenues from taxes and fees and by increasing the freedom of movement for the Palestinian population."
Stoere said Norway would deal with the new Palestinian government but "upholds its demands on Hamas as an organization."
"It is essential that the unity government gains control of the security situation in Gaza and the West Bank, and that the rocket attacks on Israeli areas cease," he added.
The Norwegian foreign minister said the new Palestinian government should "make an active effort" to secure the release of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Bjoern Jahnsen said Norway's decision means that it has lifted the restrictions on political contacts and aid it had imposed on the previous Hamas-led government.
"We've resumed normal political relations," he said.
British Foreign Minister Margaret Beckett welcomed the formation of the coalition, but said the government would be judged by its actions.
"I welcome [Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud] Abbas' continued efforts at intra-Palestinian reconciliation, which have led to agreement on the forming of a national unity government.
"We will judge the government by its platform and actions and respond accordingly. As Britain has made clear, we have always been willing to work with a government based on the Quartet principles. We will also continue supporting the Palestinian people, including through continued funding of the Temporary International Mechanism.
"I welcome the ongoing dialogue between Prime Minister Olmert and President Abbas. I hope the national unity government will support President Abbas in taking this process forward. The peace process will only move forward through constructive dialogue."
On Friday, a U.S. official said that Washington would leave the door open to unofficial contacts with Palestinian Finance Minister-designate Salam Fayyad, a political independent and Western-backed reformer.
Even before Haniyeh announced the agenda of the new Palestinian government on Saturday, Israel had already ruled out talks with the new coalition between the Islamist Hamas party and Abbas' Fatah party, which was to be sworn in on Saturday.
Israel rejected the new coalition due to Hamas' refusal to accept demands, set by the Quartet of Middle East peace mediators, that it renounce violence, recognize the Jewish state, and endorse past rapprochement efforts.
But with international impatience mounting over the diplomatic impasse and deepening Palestinian poverty and lawlessness, there have been signs of Western flexibility on talking to non-Hamas members of the new cabinet in the future.
Britain will allow contacts with Fatah members and independents in the new cabinet, including Fayyad, as well as the incoming foreign minister, Ziad Abu Amr.
France has already invited Abu Amr to visit Paris.
Also on Friday, Italy's government welcomed the formation of the new government, calling it "an important opportunity that should not be missed."
In a message to Abbas, Italian Foreign Minister and deputy Prime Minister Massimo D'Alema expressed satisfaction at the news and said Italy would work to aid the Middle East peace process.
D'Alema called on the new Palestinian executive to put an end "to all kinds of violence," including the launch of Qassam rockets and the smuggling of weapons in Gaza, and urged Hamas to release Gilad Shalit.
Among the Quartet of Middle East mediators - the U.S., European Union, United Nations and Russia - the most positive reaction to the new coalition has come from Moscow.
"It is inarguably an important event in terms of consolidation of the Palestinian ranks," Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Mikhail Kamynin said in a statement on Friday, noting that the Palestinian power-sharing deal took into account the Quartet conditions.
The U.S. was more cool. White House spokesman Tony Snow, saying he did not want to express disappointment, indicated Thursday that there would be no change in the U.S. administration's refusal to deal with the Palestinian government unless its platform changed.
"Our position has been consistent, which is, you need a Palestinian government that is going to, in fact, abide by the Quartet conditions," Snow said.
Following statements regarding international positions on the new government, Fayyad said the new Palestinian government would not be able to function for long unless the international community lifts its aid boycott and increases assistance.
Israel has announced that it will boycott the new cabinet but its officials will continue to meet with Abbas, as it has done several times in the past year, and has urged foreign powers, including the European Union, to follow suit.