Quartet opens door to ending Hamas isolation

The big powers have formally acknowledged for the first time that the policy of isolating Hamas through an economic blockade of Gaza is not working.

In a statement issued after talks at foreign minister level in London, the Quartet for Middle East peace opened the door to Egypt to find a "new approach" for Gaza, which was seized by the militant Islamic Hamas movement in June last year. The blockade, which was intended to provoke Palestinians into rejecting the Hamas leadership, has in fact proved counter-productive, and caused a humanitarian catastrophe for the majority of the 1.5 million population of the Gaza Strip.

"Principals strongly encouraged Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Egypt to work together to formulate a new approach on Gaza that would provide security to all Gazans, end all acts of terror [and] provide for the controlled and sustained opening of the Gaza crossings for humanitarian reasons and commercial flows," said the Quartet.

At a separate meeting in London, the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany came up with a new package of incentives to break the deadlock over Iran's nuclear programme, after Tehran rejected earlier initiatives. However details were only to be unveiled after the proposals had been presented to Iranian authorities.

The Quartet meeting was attended by the United States, Russia, the EU and the UN, which sent the UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon. Tony Blair was also present as the Quartet's envoy.

The endorsement of the Egyptian role comes after Egypt brokered a ceasefire agreement with smaller Palestinian militant factions earlier this week, including Islamic Jihad, which has claimed rocket attacks on Israel from Gaza.

Ismail Haniyeh, the Hamas Prime Minister, said the deal represented a united Palestinian position.

"We would not accept new [Israeli] conditions ... The ball is now in the Israeli court and if they decide on rejection, I think that neither we as a people nor Egypt will accept the closure of the crossings or the continuation of the siege," said Mr Haniyeh.

The Quartet has previously urged Israel to consider handing over control of the Gaza border crossings to the West Bank-based government of Mahmoud Abbas, but had not formally endorsed the Egyptian efforts.

Israel has said it would only agree to a truce with Palestinian militants in Gaza if cross-border rocket attacks on Israel and arms smuggling into the territory ended.

Asked whether an agreement was close on reopening the border crossings with Gaza, an Israeli embassy official replied: "Of course not."

There were some suggestions yesterday that the enhanced Egyptian role might be part of a bigger strategic picture which according to one, possibly far-fetched, scenario, could eventually lead to Egypt recovering control over Gaza.

However that would run counter to the vision of the Annapolis peace drive for a "two-state" solution as defined by the US President George Bush, whose prospects have been languishing despite his continued insistence that he hopes to realise his vision before the end of his term.

The US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice attended the Quartet meeting and was holding talks with the Palestinian Prime Minister of Fatah, Salam Fayyad, and the Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, before heading to the region today.

However expectations of a breakthrough at this point in the US electoral calendar remain low.

Yesterday's Quartet meeting was followed by a donors' conference at which Arab states were encouraged to follow through on financial pledges in order to prevent a fiscal crisis for the Palestinian Authority next month.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
Suited and booted in the Lanvin show at the Paris menswear collections
fashionParis Fashion Week
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Kara Tointon and Jeremy Piven star in Mr Selfridge
tvActress Kara Tointon on what to expect from Series 3
Voices
Winston Churchill, then prime minister, outside No 10 in June 1943
voicesA C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
News
An asteroid is set to pass so close to Earth it will be visible with binoculars
news
News
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Private Client Solicitor - Oxford

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: OXFORD - REGIONAL FIRM - An excellent opportu...

Austen Lloyd: Clinical Negligence Associate / Partner - Bristol

Super Package: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - SENIOR CLINICAL NEGLIGENCE - An outstan...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant - Solar Energy - OTE £50,000

£15000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunities are ava...

Recruitment Genius: Compute Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Compute Engineer is required to join a globa...

Day In a Page

Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project