US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says she is putting the plight of the Palestinian people at the top of her agenda during talks with the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. But only hours before the meeting Abbas broke the news that unity government talks had collapsed between his Fatah faction and the militants Hamas. Despite the lack of dialogue between the two Palestinian groups, the US’s top diplomat was at pains to show her country’s support of the man it sees as a moderate leader.
“Mr President” she said, “you know that we have great admiration for you and your leadership, that President Bush, when he met with you, restated again his strong commitment to a process by which Palestinians and Israelis can move forward to the day when there are two states.”
But Hamas continues to reject demands to renounce violence and to recognise the state of Israel – a stance which provoked the west to cut off aid to the authority after Hamas won elections last March. Since September, with the worsening economic situation, there have been talks aimed at forming a coalition government, talks which now appear to have been put on hold.