French President Jacques Chirac urged fellow EU leaders on Thursday to welcome last month’s Saudi-brokered accord on a Palestinian national unity government as a step in the right direction.
The European Union and the United States suspended direct aid to the Palestinian government last year after the Islamist Hamas movement, viewed by both as a terrorist group, beat the moderate Fatah faction in polls.
France was among the first Western governments to express support for the deal clinched in Mecca calling on President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah and Hamas to end factional violence and form a coalition, but others remain skeptical.
Chirac called on European Union leaders meeting in Brussels to “welcome the Mecca accords, which France sees as a first step towards applying the conditions of the Quartet” of Middle East mediators, his spokesman Jerome Bonnafont told reporters.
The Quartet of the United States, the EU, the United Nations and Russia have repeated calls for Palestinian leaders to renounce violence, recognize Israel and adhere to past Middle East peace pacts before aid can be unfrozen.
Current EU President Germany said it would issue a statement on the Middle East on Friday after the summit but gave no further details.
Crippling diplomatic, financial boycott
One EU diplomat said the bloc had already given tentative backing to the Mecca deal but that an endorsement at the level of EU leaders would be a further positive signal.
“In principle the idea of a unity government is something we take as a positive sign,” EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana told reporters, adding Friday’s statement would not be radically different to previous EU statements.
The unity government deal contains a vague promise to “respect” Israeli-Palestinian pacts but does not commit the incoming government to abide by those pacts, nor to recognizing Israel and renouncing violence as the Quartet has demanded.
Abbas said on Thursday after talks with Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas that a new unity government was “99 percent” agreed but would not be announced until next week.
Once the unity cabinet is formed, Abbas wants international donors to lift a crippling diplomatic and financial boycott on the government. But Israel has urged the EU not to compromise on the Quartet’s demands.
Foreign donors have been channeling money directly to Abbas’ office, bypassing the Hamas-led government. Israel has also released some tax revenue to Abbas.