In pummeled Gaza, Hamas recoups
Israeli and Palestinian officials met in Cairo Sunday in a bid to bolster the current cease-fire.
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In his first foreign policy speech on Thursday, Obama stuck close to the conditions that were set up by the Quartet – a four-party alliance that includes the UN, the US, the European Union, and Russia – for dealing with the crisis in the Middle East following Hamas' parliamentary victory three years ago.Skip to next paragraph
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"To be a genuine party to peace, the Quartet has made it clear that Hamas must meet clear conditions: Recognize Israel's right to exist, renounce violence, and abide by past agreements," Obama said. But he also said access to Gaza must be part of the package.
"As part of a lasting cease-fire, Gaza's border crossings should be opened to allow the flow of aid and commerce, with an appropriate monitoring regime with the international and Palestinian Authority participating," Obama said. "Relief efforts must be able to reach innocent Palestinians who depend on them."
French President Sarkozy is showing a willingness to talk to Hamas, shifting away from the Quartet's conditions that Hamas officials here say are non-starters. These include recognizing Israel and renouncing violence, which Hamas defines as resistance to occupation. Expressions by Hamas in favor of a two-state solution would itself be enough of a reason to engage in dialogue, Sarkozy has indicated.
Tony Blair, the EU's Middle East envoy, told reporters last week the bottom line was not the Quartet's requirements for talking to Hamas. "The issue is not whether we talk to Hamas or not," Mr. Blair said. "The issue is whether there is a basis for talking that allows us to make progress on the two-state solution."
Senior Palestinian and Israeli officials met in Cairo on Sunday, as part of a renewed a diplomatic effort to reach a more durable cease-fire. Israel proposed an 18-month ceasefire; Hamas wants 12 months, a Hamas official told Reuters. Hamas also wants Egypt to reopen its Gaza border crossing, which has often been closed since the militant group took control of Gaza in 2007.
In Brussels Sunday, European Union foreign ministers held talks with their counterparts from Egypt, Jordan, Turkey, and the Palestinian Authority. The EU is eager to offer monitors, ships, and radar equipment to help secure Gaza's borders – and halt the smuggling of weapons by Hamas, the Associated Press reports.
Israel is allowing some supply convoys into Gaza, though its borders remain largely closed. Israeli officials say more than 125 trucks a day have been going into Gaza since the cease-fire began on Jan. 17, according to the Associated Press.