The “Quartet” of entities guiding the Middle East peace process endorsed the new Palestinian government and President Bush’s latest peace initiative.
“The Quartet encouraged direct and rapid financial assistance and other aid to the Palestinian Authority government to help reform, preserve, and strengthen vital Palestinian institutions and infrastructure, and to support the rule of law,” said a statement from the body comprising the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations after a foreign minister level meeting in Lisbon on Thursday.
Endorsing the new government, led by Salam Fayyad, appeared to further isolate Hamas, the terrorist group now in control of the Gaza Strip. Prior to last month’s split between Hamas and P.A. President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah movement, Russia and some European nations had leaned toward engaging Hamas.
Additionally, the statement welcomed the new Quartet envoy, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who attended the meeting. However, the statement underscored the narrowness of Blair’s mission, stressing his role more as an institution builder for the Palestinians, and not as someone dealing with final status issues, including borders and refugees. Additionally, it narrowed Bush’s proposed conference this fall to one of fund-raisers, reviving the 1990s-era “As Hoc Liaison Committee.” Arab states had hoped the conference would be more expansive.