Hamas and Fatah officially signed a power-sharing agreement Saturday. Norway became the first country to announce its recognition of the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority unity government. Hamas continues to refuse to recognize Israel or renounce terrorism.
Norway was home to the original back-channel talks between left-wing Israeli politicians and the PLO when it was still illegal to meet with the terror group. Later, Norway hosted the Ill-fated Oslo Accords, which called for and enabled the arming of the Palestinian Authority.
Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere said Saturday that the new PA government is "taking steps toward complying with international demands… Norway will thus, on this basis, re-establish political and economic relations with the Palestinian governmen. We've resumed normal political relations.”
The move is expected to renew some of the foreign aid cut since Hamas won a landslide victory over Fatah in parliamentary elections over a year ago.
Army Radio quoted diplomatic sources saying Spain and Ireland may be next to embrace the new PA government. France has invited PA officials on an official visit and Britain plans on interacting with the government through its non-Hamas members.
Among members of the "Quartet" - the United Nations, the United States, the European Union and Russia - the latter two have responded most positively to the new PA government.
"It is inarguably an important event in terms of consolidation of the Palestinian ranks," a statement from Russia’s Foreign Ministry said.
The European Union said it “welcomes the formation of a Palestinian Government of National Unity pursuant to the agreement reached in Mecca on 8 February 2007, which lays the foundation for Palestinian reconciliation.”
The EU stopped short of pledging renewed support, pending an assessment of the government’s compliance with the Quartet’s principles. "The Presidency of the EU recalls the readiness of the EU to work with and to resume its assistance to a legitimate Palestinian government adopting a platform reflecting the Quartet principles,” a statement read. “The EU will carefully assess the platform and actions of the new government and its ministers.”
The US said that it stands by the unmet demands of the Quartet that the PA renounce terrorism and recognize Israel.
Israel announced that it will boycott the new cabinet, though continue to conduct meetings with Fatah chief Mahmoud Abbas.
Cabinet minister Raleb Majadle called upon the government to launch talks with the new PA government. Majadle argues that half of the members of the PA cabinet already signed agreements with Israel under the Oslo Accords and other agreements. These agreements do not bind the Hamas members, however, according to the position taken by Hamas.
The radical northern branch of the Israeli-Arab Islamic Movement congratulated both Hamas and Fatah on the new power-sharing agreement and expressed its hope that the arrangement would serve the interests of Muslims living in Israel as well as in PA-controlled areas. The group appealed to the new government to make Jerusalem and the Temple Mount its top priorities.