JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Jordan’s King Abdullah says there is broad Arab agreement that a Palestinian unity government must adhere to the demands of the Quartet of Middle East mediators.
King Abdullah’s comments, to be broadcast on Saturday, are the first from an Arab leader to cast doubt on the willingness of major Arab donors to sidestep a U.S.-led embargo of the Hamas-led government unless it commits to recognizing Israel, renouncing violence and abiding by interim peace deals.
“You’re not alone on this,” King Abdullah said in an interview with Israel’s Channel 2 television when asked about Israeli concerns the power-sharing deal between Hamas and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah fails to meet the Quartet’s demands.
The Quartet of Middle East peace negotiators comprise the United States, EU, Russia and the United Nations.
“There’s international common ground -- not just Western but also Arab and to an extent Muslim -- that believe that there have to be certain criteria that the new government has to accept if we’re going to move the process forward,” he said.
There was a need to adhere to the Quartet’s conditions, said the king who became ruler of Jordan in 1999, four years after the country signed a peace treaty with Israel. Jordan has openly expressed support for Abbas, who is backed by the West, and for a renewal of peace talks.
Jordanian officials had privately supported U.S.-led efforts to isolate the Hamas government that took power after winning January 2006 elections, unless it embraced Middle East peace moves.
While the unity government agreement contained a vague promise to “respect” previous Israeli-Palestinian agreements it fell short of what the Quartet wants.
“It’s not just ... the international players, but also the Arab countries are also expecting the new Palestinian government to adhere to the policies that we have set out in the Quartet, and in the Arab Quartet also,” he said, referring to Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates.
King Abdullah said Abbas should be given “the mandate to start negotiations with the Israelis,” and the new government should be in “full compliance with the Arab Accord as well as international commitments”.
The Arab initiative, launched in 2002, would trade diplomatic recognition for Israel’s withdrawal from land it occupied in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. King Abdullah said the initiative was being re-launched and could draw broader support from Muslim countries around the world.
The unity government deal has widened rifts within the Quartet over how to deal with the Palestinian government.
Washington wants to shun the new government to keep pressure on Hamas. Russia and some European states favor a softer line.
Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal said on Friday that several European states had pledged to send money to the new government, though he offered no details.
In the interview, King Abdullah said time was running out to revive the long-stalled peace process. “I think the circumstances in the Middle East have changed so much so that really this is our last opportunity,” he said.
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice held a three-way meeting on Monday with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Abbas. But it appeared to do little to jumpstart peace-making.
Additional reporting by Suleiman al-Khalidi in Amman