The European Union foreign ministers have agreed to back a Palestinian national unity government being formed by President Mahmoud Abbas with the Hamas Islamist movement. Italy said this moved them closer to recognition of Israel. But Erkki Tuomioja of the current EU presidency Finland sounded a note of caution. He said: “This means also meeting the requirements of the international community and the Quartet, and allows us to re-engage directly with the palestinian administration. But many things as always remain in the air and are precarious.” The ‘Quartet’ refers to the U.S., the EU, Russia and the UN in peace talks. But as Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of the party Hamas and President Abbas of the Fatah party on Monday were still arguing over who would get which portfolios, Britain, Germany, the Netherlands and the Czech Republic — all close to Washington — also urged caution, diplomats said.
Washington said on Thursday it saw no grounds so far to lift the embargo on contacts and aid. But many European governments are anxious to end the political stand-off, which has aggravated poverty and lawlessness in the Palestinian territories. The EU ministers approved a three-month extension of a temporary aid mechanism set up this year to channel essential aid to Palestinians while by-passing Hamas.