Amr Moussa - End Hamas boycott
Photo: AP
Photo: AP
Rice - No peace without recognition
Photo: AP

Divisions over Hamas at Berlin donors meeting

Arab League calls for end to international siege against Hamas now that truce with Israel in effect, US Secretary Rice responds: 'You cannot have peace if one partner does not respect right of other partner to exist'

Top diplomats skirmished on Tuesday over whether to engage the Palestinian Islamist Hamas group now that it has arranged a truce with Israel in Gaza.


At an international donors conference called to strengthen Palestinian police, Arab League secretary-general Amr Moussa said he believed the ceasefire in Gaza would hold, and voiced support for more negotiations between Palestinians and Israel .


But he said reconciling the Palestinians in Hamas-run Gaza and the Western-backed government of Mahmoud Abbas was critical for peace and the international "veto" on this had to be lifted.


Moussa did not single out any country in particular, but said: "This is a responsibility of all of us.... The Palestinians have to have one front."


US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, attending the meeting of some 50 nations, then asked to speak to respond.


"You cannot have peace if there is not a partner who respects the right of the other partner to exist," she said, in an apparent reference to Hamas, which the United States has refused to deal with because it does not recognize Israel or past Palestinian agreements with Israel .


The parties also had to renounce violence and live up to international obligations, she said.


"No one would be happier to see a reconciliation of the Palestinian people than I would," Rice said. "That reconciliation has to take place on the basis, that at least observes the international agreements that the Palestinians themselves have signed on," she said.


One day - $180 million

Hamas, which seized Gaza from Abbas' Fatah faction in fighting a year ago, opposes Abbas' peace talks with Israel. German Chancellor Angela Merkel also reiterated that the international community should stick to its boycott of Hamas.


Berlin says the one-day donors conference is an important step on the path to a two-state agreement between Israel and the Palestinians - a goal the two sides pledged to pursue at a conference in the US city of Annapolis last November.


But the conference's opening also coincided with news that Israeli forces killed two Islamic Jihad gunmen in the West Bank city of Nablus on Tuesday in the first fatal raid since the ceasefire took hold in the Gaza strip last week. Palestinians fired a mortar shell into Israel on Monday, the IDF did not respond.


"This is the kind of activity that has to stop, and has to stop promptly, if we are going to be able to succeed," Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad said of the Nablus operation.


Germany hopes to raise some $180 million at the conference for projects including Palestinian court houses and prisons.


The so-called "Quartet" of Middle East peace mediators - comprising the European Union, Russia, the United Nations and the United States - is set to meet in Berlin later on Tuesday.


Rice told reporters on her plane to Berlin Middle East peace mediators would have a first opportunity to take stock of last week's truce between Israel and Hamas Islamists in Gaza.


But she also urged a renewed focus on peace efforts between Israel and Abbas' Palestinian Authority, which is the track that the Bush administration has emphasized in hopes of reaching an agreement this year.


פרסום ראשון: 06.24.08, 14:58
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