Palestinian premier reassures EU, UN over new government

 04 Jun 2014 - 4:08

Palestinian children take part in a summer camp organised by Hamas yesterday. Thousands of elementary school students in the Gaza Strip go to Hamas summer camps, in which they take part in recreational activities and participate in political demonstrations.

RAMALLAH: Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah assured foreign diplomats yesterday that his new unity government would respect past agreements with Israel, after chairing the cabinet’s first meeting.
The new 17-member cabinet was sworn in on Monday before president Mahmud Abbas, in line with a surprise reconciliation deal reached in April between Gaza’s Islamist rulers Hamas and the PLO, which dominates the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority.
“Hamdallah stressed that the government is committed to all international agreements signed by the Palestine Liberation Organisation ... international political initiatives and peaceful solutions,” his office said.
Hamdallah was briefing European Union representatives to the Palestinian territories on his new government, also telling them his cabinet would focus on providing services and resolving pressing water issues in the Gaza Strip.
He later gave UN peace envoy Robert Serry the same assurances, adding the government’s “main mission is to prepare for free and democratic elections,” a separate statement said.
The European Union said it will work with the new Palestinian unity government, on condition it sticks to the principle of peace with Israel based on a two-state solution.
“We welcome ... the declaration by President Abbas that this new government is committed to the principle of the two state solution based on the 1967 borders, to the recognition of Israel’s legitimate right to exist,” the EU said in a statement.
“The EU’s engagement with the new Palestinian government will be based on its adherence to these policies and commitments,” it said.
After chairing the new cabinet’s first meeting, Hamdallah told reporters in the West Bank city of Ramallah the “main subject the government discussed was how to reunite the institutions in the West Bank and Gaza.”
“Employees were asked to return to work,” he said, referring to people from Abbas’s Fatah party who worked in Gaza-based government ministries before the Islamist Hamas movement forcibly took over the territory in 2007, splitting the Palestinian territories into two separate camps.
Despite the alliance with Hamas, which does not recognise Israel and is pledged to its destruction, Abbas has said the government would abide by the principles of the Middle East Quartet.
“The government is committed to the principle of the two states on the border of 1967. The government is also committed to recognising the State of Israel, renouncing violence and honouring the signed agreements,” he said on Monday.