EU Delegation Meets Palestinian Unity Gov't Officials in Gaza
A delegation of European diplomats traveled to the Gaza Strip to meet the Gaza-based ministers of a new Palestinian Authority "unity government", an EU official said Wednesday.
John Gatt-Rutter, the EU representative to Judea, Samaria and Gaza, was joined at the Tuesday meeting by French, Swedish, Danish and Portuguese diplomats, the official told AFP, speaking anonymously.
Four of the 17 ministers in the PA unity government are based in Gaza.
The government was sworn in on June 2 under a reconciliation deal between Gaza's Islamist rulers Hamas and the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority, in a move to end seven years of rival administrations in the two territories.
The meeting was an opportunity to the congratulate the Gaza ministers and receive updates on the situation in Gaza, but also "a political message that we support the national consensus government," the official said.
"It was a follow-up to the statement we issued," he said of remarks by EU foreign affairs head Catherine Ashton, who welcomed the new unity government.
It is worth noting that Hamas is on the EU's list of terrorist organizations. That listing specifically includes both "Hamas" and "Hamas-Izz al-Din al-Qassem," meaning that both the military and governmental branches of Hamas are recognized as terror groups by the EU.
Washington - which also classifies Hamas as a terrorist group - has also agreed to work with the new government, prompting a furious reaction from Israel, which had urged the international community not to rush into recognizing the new entity, which includes Hamas - an organization committed to Israel's destruction.
The Palestinian Authority unity cabinet has been set up as a "non-partisan, independent government" of "technocrats", in an attempt to deflect criticism over Hamas's involvement. Indeed, US officials have repeatedly used the fact that no Hamas members have been appointed to it as a reason for American cooperation despite laws banning cooperation with terrorist organizations.
But critics have pointed out that the "interim government" - which is tasked with organizing general elections by year-end and has no political mandate - will undoubtedly be influenced by Hamas regardless.
On Monday, UN's official envoy Robert Serry became the first senior international diplomat to meet with members of the new unity government.