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Scandaleuse et majeure responsabilité (irresponsabilité ?) de l’Europe (ndlr)

EU welcomes Palestinian deal but fails to resume direct aid

By Stephen Castle in Brussels and Donald Macintyre in Jerusalem

Thursday 15 February 2007

Le troupeau bêlant d’une partie des élus (nationaux et européens) devrait se remémorer la triste fin des moutons de Panurge mais, drapé dans sa “condescendante attitude”, il est douteux qu’il s’abaisse à la recherche de cette histoire millénaire, trop satisfait de sa situation aussi éphémère que le nuage pailleté d’or auquel il tente de s’accrocher à vie. Mais, peut-on s’accrocher à un nuage ? M.F.

The Independent
Published: 13 February 2007


Hopes of a swift resumption of direct aid to the Palestinians suffered a setback as the new national unity government was told it needed to do more before it could hope for increased Western help to alleviate the plight of its population.

Against the background of a worsened humanitarian situation, Europe gave a cautious welcome yesterday to a Saudi-brokered deal under which Fatah and Hamas agreed to form a joint government. The EU suspended regular, direct aid to the Palestinian Authority last year after Hamas came to power. Since then it has channelled funds to vulnerable individuals through a Temporary International Mechanism (TIM), bypassing Hamas.

At a meeting of EU foreign ministers yesterday, there were varying degrees of support for the idea of expanding contacts with the national unity government. A statement repeated a demand from the Quartet - the United States, the EU, Russia and the United Nations - that the government should accept key principles including the recognition of Israel and the renunciation of violence.

Philippe Douste-Blazy, the French Foreign Minister, said that, if the national unity government recognised the Oslo agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Liberation Organisation, “it will mean that the government recognises Israel”.

Benita Ferrero-Waldner, the EU’s external relations commissioner, outlined moves to expand co-operation with the PA and said it was “highly important to keep up the political momentum”. Her plan would, she said, mean the EU “could gradually resume support for ministries from which we have had to distance ourselves”.

There were no new financing or timing details announced at the meeting, and ministers stressed that the new government must first accept the principles laid down by the international community. These include accepting the existence of Israel and renouncing violence.

Frank-Walter Steinmeier, the Foreign Minister of Germany, which holds the rotating EU presidency, struck a cautious note. “We hope that this agreement will enable us to see an end to the bloodshed but this process has not reached an end,” he said. “We are looking to the formation of the government and the programme this government is going to come up with.”

One EU diplomat said: “We want to get to a situation where we have a national unity government that reflects Quartet principles, where we can engage in minister-to-minister meetings and stop using the TIM and make direct payments. But we are not there yet.”

Arriving back in Gaza yesterday, Ismail Haniyeh, who is to remain as Palestinian Prime Minister under the terms of the deal brokered at Mecca, Saudi Arabia, said he expected the current cabinet to resign “within days” to begin a process of up to five weeks to form a new one.

Obstacles, however, remain - not least whether a Hamas nominee for the post of interior minister can be found who is acceptable to the Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas. The issue is key to guaranteeing a permanent halt to the armed conflict between the Hamas militia and Fatah dominated security forces.

The Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, indicated yesterday he regarded the new government as a crucial test for Mr Abbas, whom Mr Olmert has hitherto said he wants to help. Despite earlier warnings by unnamed officials in the Israeli media that the new government would not meet Quartet-backed principles, the Israeli cabinet formally deferred its response to the Mecca deal on Sunday.

Mr Olmert suggested to the Knesset’s foreign affairs and defence committee yesterday that if the new coalition released Cpl Gilad Shalit, captured by militants in Gaza in June, that would positively affect Israel’s attitude to it. And he said that he would take part in a three-way summit with Mr Abbas and the US Secretary of State, Condoleeza Rice, next week. But he warned: “Up to now, Abbas has been an opponent of Hamas. If the new government makes the same inflated demands of Israel, it will show that [Abbas] has moved from his previous position, toward Hamas.”