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Europe's Barroso: Palestinian unity should be 'supported'
Published Monday 09/06/2014 (updated) 09/06/2014 18:25
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European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso delivers a
speech during the 14th annual international conference on
security and policy in the coastal city of Herzliya, north of Tel
Aviv on June 8, 2014.(AFP/Gil Cohen Magen)
HERZLIYA, Israel (AFP) -- A Palestinian unity deal with the Hamas movement must be supported, European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso told an Israeli security conference on Sunday.

His remarks came just days after a Palestinian unity government, comprised of political independents but backed by Hamas, was sworn in -- a move welcomed by the international community but rejected by Israel as a major stumbling block to peace.

"In the interest of a future peace deal and of a legitimate and representative government, intra-Palestinian reconciliation... should be supported," Barroso told delegates at a conference in the coastal city of Herzliya.

Any Palestinian government should uphold the principle of non-violence, be committed to a two-state solution and a negotiated settlement of the conflict, which would imply accepting existing agreements as well as recognizing Israel's right to exist, he said.

When news of the surprise reconciliation agreement between leaders in the West Bank and Gaza emerged in late April, Israel immediately broke off US-led peace talks, saying it would never negotiate with any government backed by Hamas.

"The Palestinian unity government with backing from the Hamas terrorist organization is a Palestinian step against peace and in favor of terrorism," Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Tuesday.

"No European country would be prepared to accept a terrorist organization as part of its government," he said.

Barroso also called on Israel and the Palestinians to find the "political courage" to take decisive steps "to bet on peace."

"The status quo may seem politically safer in the short term but it cannot deliver any long term gains," he said.

"Leadership is about making possible what is necessary, and peace is necessary in the region. Security for Israel and a state for the Palestinians are moral imperatives for the international community."

Also speaking at the Herzliya conference, Israeli Economy Minister Naftali Bennett, who heads the far-right Jewish Home Party, called anew for a tough response to the Palestinian government formation.

Israel should hit back by "imposing its sovereignty over Judea-Samaria (the West Bank)," he said. "I call on the prime minister to take the first step towards annexation."

But Finance Minister Yair Lapid warned that his centrist Yesh Atid party would quit the coalition government and bring down the cabinet if any such plan went ahead.

Also on a visit to Gaza Sunday, Robert Serry, UN special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, voiced the UN's support for the Palestinian unity government.

"The formation of the government of national consensus is a first step and opportunity to address the serious political, security, humanitarian and economic challenges ahead," Serry said in a statement.

He also called for lifting the blockade of the Gaza Strip and allowing the free movement of the new Palestinian ministers between Gaza and the West Bank.

The international community has given overwhelming backing to the formation of a Palestinian unity government.
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1 ) Bemused / New Zealand
09/06/2014 15:58
And when can we expect the EU to require that Israel also renounce violence, and recognise the state of Palestine?

2 ) @ Bemused-1 / Truth
09/06/2014 18:58
* THE STATE OF ISRAEL always "renounced violence", war, & terror, and
* ONLY USES FORCE IN SELF-DEFENSE, AND WILL "RECOGNIZE the state of
* PALESTINE", only when or If it actually ever exists, which will require Palestinians to reach a comprehensive agreement with the State of Israel, that ends the conflict permanently, on terms acceptable to both, or
* PROBABLY NEVER, just as the Palestinian Authority will probably never recognize the State of Israel, as a Jewish state !!

3 ) Rondo Mondo / Canada
09/06/2014 19:25
The EU rep misses that the government is not an unity government but a caretaker government of persons appointed by Fatah and Hamas until elections can be agreed upon and held. Hamas is not giving up power in Gaza and Fatah is not giving up power in the West Bank. Fatah and Hamas are not unified in their positions.

4 ) UN / UNESCO
09/06/2014 20:10
Bemused #1 - Israel will recognize the state of palestine when such state starts to exist. So far it does not exist - nothing to recognize. And such palestinian state can be established only through negotiated and mutually agreed solution, which would end palestine-Israel conflict and any future palestinian claims. Until such conflict solution negotiated and agreed palestinian state would not exist and it would not be recognized by Israel and USA.

5 ) Outlier / USA
09/06/2014 20:49
Barroso's comment is premature. He should s see whether Palestinian unity works to the benefit of all Palestinians before providing such an endorsement.
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