February 9, 2007 / 9:06 AM / 11 years ago

France urges world to back Palestinian accord

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - France urged the international community on Friday to back a new national unity government formed by rival Palestinian factions and other EU countries were cautiously positive on the accord.

EU diplomats said it was too early to expect any decision on lifting a freeze on direct aid to the Palestinian government when the 27-nation bloc’s foreign ministers meet on Monday but they were likely to issue a positive statement on the agreement.

French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy said he supported the deal between the moderate Fatah party and the militant Islamist Hamas movement signed in Mecca on Thursday, and called for international backing.

“The inclusion in this government’s program of respecting international resolutions and agreements signed by the PLO (Palestine Liberation Organization) constitutes a step in the right direction toward full adherence to the international community’s demands,” Douste-Blazy said in a statement.

“Creation of the new government on the basis of this program should be encouraged and supported,” he added.

The United States and the European Union suspended aid to and contact with the Palestinian government last year after Hamas took office rejecting international demands to recognize Israel, renounce violence or accept past peace agreements.

They have channeled some assistance through international agencies and non-government organizations and sought to buttress Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, a Fatah moderate.

EU president Germany said it welcomed the deal.

“I hope that this agreement will bring inter-Palestinian violence to a halt,” German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said in a statement.

He made no mention of lifting the aid freeze but said: “What we expect of the Palestinians is clear: The violence against Israel must end. The dialogue with the Israeli government commenced by President Abbas must be continued.”

POSITIVE BUT CAUTIOUS

A spokeswoman for EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said the bloc would study the agreement and foreign ministers would discuss it at a monthly meeting on Monday.

British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett called the unity government agreement “an interesting and important development”.

But she too said details would have to be studied carefully.

The chairman of the British parliament’s development committee, Malcolm Bruce, called the accord an opportunity to relax restrictions on assistance to the Palestinian Authority.

Solana spokeswoman Cristina Gallach said the Quartet of Middle East mediators -- the United States, the EU, Russia and the United Nations -- were discussing whether the unity accord reflected their conditions.

A European Commission official said it was too early to talk about unfreezing aid, but External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner would outline proposals on Monday to expand an aid mechanism set up last year to bypass Hamas.

The Quartet last month opened up the possibility of expanding this mechanism, which channeled nearly 200 million euros to Palestinians last year, to assist governance programs, institution building and economic development.

“A window of opportunity is ajar again,” an EU diplomat said. “One can say confidently that it’s better that they have made an agreement rather than shooting at each other. But perhaps that’s all you can say.”

Additional reporting by David Brunnstrom in Brussels, Francois Murphy in Paris, Tom Armitage and Sophie Walker in London

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