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
News
newsAnother week, another dress controversy on the internet
Life and Style
Marie had fake ID, in the name of Johanna Koch, after she evaded capture by the Nazis in wartime Berlin
historyOne woman's secret life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
Life and Style
Scientist have developed a test which predicts whether you'll live for another ten years
health
News
news... and what your reaction to the creatures above says about you
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
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

Recruitment Genius: Telesales & Customer Service Executive - Call Centre Jobs

£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...

Ashdown Group: Finance Manager - Covent Garden, central London - £45k - £55k

£45000 - £55000 per annum + 30 days holiday: Ashdown Group: Finance Manager - ...

Ashdown Group: Systems Administrator - Lancashire - £30,000

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: 3rd Line Support Engineer / Network ...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Web Developer

£26000 - £33000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Web Developer is required to ...

Day In a Page

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003