Last updated: 4 June, 2014

Kerry defends US decision to work with Palestinian government

Secretary of State John Kerry defended Wednesday a US decision to work with the new Palestinian unity government, despite Israeli criticism, emphasising that it does not include any Hamas ministers.

The United States, like Israel and the European Union, consider Islamist group Hamas a “terrorist” organisation.

Speaking to reporters in Beirut, Kerry said Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas “made clear that this new technocratic government is committed to the principles of non violence, negotiations, recognising the state of Israel, acceptance of the previous agreements and the Quartet principles.”

“Based on what we know now about the composition of this technocratic government, which has no minister affiliated to Hamas and is committed to the principles that I describe, we will work with it as we need to, as appropriate.”

Kerry also said US preparedness to work with the Palestinian government does not mean recognition of a Palestinian state.

“The US does not recognise a government with respect to Palestine because that would recognise a state and there is no state,” he said.

A new Palestinian cabinet was sworn in Monday, after a surprise reconciliation deal reached in April between Hamas and the PLO.

The United States, the EU, the UN and Russia have all accepted to work with the cabinet.

Despite the alliance with Hamas, which does not recognise Israel and is pledged to its destruction, Abbas has said the government would abide by the principles of the Middle East Quartet, which envisage the establishment of two states.

The US’ readiness to work with the new government has prompted fury from Israel, with Netanyahu branding it Tuesday as “a step against peace”.

While on an unscheduled visit to Beirut, Kerry said: “I want to make it very clear we are going to be watching it (the government) very closely, as we have said from day one, to absolutely ensure that it upholds each of those things it has talked about, that it doesn’t cross the line.”

A row over the new Palestinian government is driving yet another wedge into already shaky ties between Israel and the US as the once sacrosanct relationship comes under severe strain.