US reaction to Hamas acceptance of deal with Fatah
Palestine-USA, Politics, 3/18/2008
US Department Of State Deputy Spokesman Tom Casey was asked today about news of negotiations between Hamas and Fatah to be brokered by Yemen.
Casey said "while I'm not familiar with the details of this, I think our views on this remain quite clear. We're supporting the efforts of President Abbas, Prime Minister Fayyad and their government, both in terms of developing a negotiated solution and resolution of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict through the creation of a Palestinian state that can live side by side in peace with Israel. And of course, we're also committed to seeing that state and that government be able to honor those commitments that it makes.
"And of course, as you know, the main concern that we've always had with Hamas is that, in addition to its status as a terrorist group, is as a 'political' organization, its inability to honor any of the Quartet principles, including recognizing Israel's right to exist, acknowledging the basis of the agreements that have established the Palestinian Authority in the first place, and, of course, most importantly, eschewing violence and terror.
"So certainly, ultimately, there has to be, as the Secretary has said, a resolution of the internal conflict, if you will, among the Palestinian people. But we would certainly hope that any solution that would be reached would be one that would be in accordance with the views that President Abbas has spoken about and represent, we believe, the vast majority of Palestinian people's desire for a peaceful settlement of the situation with Israel.
Asked "the Hamas official is quoted as saying that they found the idea acceptable -- the idea would be a return to the status quo ante in the Gaza Strip, and the holding -- status quo ante meaning before the Hamas violent takeover of it in June of '07, and the holding of quick elections to determine the will of the people. And I wonder why the idea of such a resolution is not somehow acceptable to you guys, particularly since it might allow for sort of an electoral outcome."
Casey said "ultimately, it's not for us to determine how the Palestinians wish to organize elections or organize their national government. I'm not aware that President Abbas has expressed any interest in having the situation return to the previous -- to status quo ante. I think it'd be a little hard to do under the circumstances, just practically. I think it's a little hard -- certainly, if you asked the people in Gaza, I think they'd be pretty hard-pressed to simply ignore the illegal takeover that Hamas engaged in, and particularly the repression of many of those associated with Fatah that's gone on since then.
"So, you know, look, I think we'll leave it to President Abbas and Prime Minister Fayyad to make the determinations as to how they wish to proceed. But clearly, you know, from our perspective, the decisions in this regard belong to them."
Asked that the position of US has been for a long time that the Palestinians have to make choices, the choice between peace and the choice between terrorism, and "If you don't give them the opportunity to have elections, how can they express their choice?"
Casey replied "first of all, let's start with what I've seen is about a 100-word wire service story. So I'm unprepared, for you, to give a very specific and formal US Government, concerted reaction to something I saw 15 minutes ago. But I think as a matter of general policy, we've made it quite clear that, you know, we are supporting the legitimate government of the Palestinian Authority. That is President Abbas and Prime Minister Fayyad. That is who we will be continuing to work with. Our concerns about Hamas while in government were quite clear, and I don't think that there is any value at this point in trying to somehow undo what's already gone on.
"Ultimately, though, yes, of course, the Palestinian people and the Israeli people will have to ratify and support any agreement that is reached between their leaders. And that's right and proper and we expect that will happen. And we would expect that an agreement that was reached between Prime Minister Olmert and President Abbas for a final settlement would be overwhelmingly supported by Palestinians as well as Israelis, because we believe that those two communities overwhelmingly do want to live in peace and do support that idea. And certainly, we hope to get to a point where there will be an opportunity for them to express views in favor of such an agreement."
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