(CNSNews.com) – A United Nations spokesman on Wednesday played down statements by Hamas that its decision to join a Palestinian unity government does not mean it will recognize Israel, saying the U.N. had no reason not to take Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas “at his word” on the matter.
“I think, you know, in any political situations when there are coalitions being built, negotiations being had, you’ll have people making comments left, right and center. I think we have no reason not to take President Abbas at his word. He’s our interlocutor for the Palestinian Authority,” said Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
Dujarric was answering questions about the proposed establishment of a P.A. unity government as part of a reconciliation agreement between Abbas’ Fatah faction and Hamas, a U.S.-designated foreign terrorist organization.
Ban’s Mideast envoy, Robert Serry, says Abbas assured him that Hamas as part of the unity deal will comply with three key commitments laid down years ago by the so-called Mideast Quartet – a renunciation of violence, recognition of Israel, and adherence to previously-signed agreements.
On that basis, the U.N. is characterizing the unity deal as a positive step. Serry briefed the U.N. Security Council on the peace process on Tuesday.
But Hamas leaders have contradicted Abbas’ reported assurances, and Dujarric was asked at a daily briefing in New York on Tuesday whether Ban would send Serry to talk to the Hamas leadership, to get direct confirmation of what Abbas claims to be the case.
The spokesman answered that he had no contact with Palestinian leaders to report, apart from Serry’s interactions with Abbas, “as the president.”
“Wouldn’t it be constructive, before commenting whether this reconciliation is positive or not, to get assurances on the record from Hamas that they will abide by the conditions?” a reporter asked.
“Mr. Serry has the contacts that he needs to have on the Palestinian side,” Dujarric replied. “He met with President Abbas and listened to what President Abbas had to say about the unity government and we then reported on it.”
At Wednesday’s briefing the reporter tried again, pointing to Hamas’ continuing denials.
“I must ask again, to what extent did Mr. Serry perform due diligence, before he made the statements he did yesterday to the Security Council relying on what President Abbas had told him, and not at least balancing it with these indications that Hamas is not on the same page?”
Dujarric replied, “I think, you know, in any political situations when there are coalitions being built, negotiations being had, you’ll have people making comments left, right and center. I think we have no reason not to take President Abbas at his word. He’s our interlocutor for the Palestinian Authority.”
The U.N. secretariat’s view on the proposed unity deal is significant because the U.N. is part of the Mideast Quartet, which laid down the three criteria for participation in the Palestinian political process.
The three principles were endorsed in a U.N. Security Council resolution in 2008. They are also enshrined in U.S. law, the 2006 Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act, as conditions for U.S. funding for the P.A.
The other three Quartet partners are the U.S., the European Union and Russia.