World Bulletin/News Desk
Secretary of State John Kerry said on Wednesday the United States would work with the new Palestinian unity government "as we need to" but would be monitoring its commitment to continued cooperation with Israel.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas swore in a government of technocrats on Monday in a reconciliation deal between his Fatah movement and Hamas.
"We are going to be watching (the government) very closely, as we 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," Kerry said.
Kerry said Abbas had told him that the new government would be committed to principles of non-violence, negotiations with Israel and existing accords including cooperation on security.
Kerry, who oversaw peace talks between the Israelis and Palestinians that stalled in April, said he had spoken over the last few days with both Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who warned on Sunday against any international rush to recognise the new Palestinian government.
Netanyahu has condemned Washington's decision to work with the unity government. But Kerry stressed that Washington did not recognise the new Palestinian government.
"Let me be very clear: the United States does not recognise a government with respect to Palestine, because that would recognise a state and there is no state," Kerry said. "This is not an issue of recognition of a government."
Kerry said the U.S. law on assistance to the Palestinian Authority specifically states that the administration makes a judgment about "undue influence by Hamas in any way".
"At the moment, we don't have that, and so we are looking to see as we go forward on a day-to-day evaluation - we will measure the composition (of the new government), we will measure the policies of the new technocrat government, and we will calibrate our approach accordingly," he said.
"I've had several conversations with Prime Minister Netanyahu," Kerry said, playing down reports of a rift with Israel. "We're completely talking about this on a day-to-day basis. Israel is our friend, our strong ally."
Lebanon needs president
U.S. Secretary of State also urged Lebanon's politicians to overcome their "deeply troubling" stalemate and elect a new president to help respond to the damaging fallout of civil war in neighbouring Syria.
"Lebanon's security for years has been of paramount concern to the United States, and that is why I have to say that the current political stalemate here in Lebanon is deeply troubling," he said after meeting Prime Minister Tammam Salam.
Lebanon has been without a president since May 25, when Michel Suleiman's six-year term expired. Attempts by politicians to pick a successor have foundered on longstanding divisions exacerbated by tensions over the Syrian war.
Political rifts have been accompanied by sectarian violence including bombs, gunbattles and rocket fire. Salam's government also faces widening budget deficits and a growing strain on services such as electricity, water, health and education from more than 1 million Syrian refugees in a country of 4 million.
"Lebanon needs and Lebanon deserves to have a fully empowered, fully functioning, complete government. We hope the Lebanese parliament will select a president quickly," Kerry said.
The presidency, allocated to the Maronite Christian community under Lebanon's sectarian division of power, is one of the three main political offices alongside the prime minister, a Sunni Muslim, and the parliamentary speaker, a Shi'ite Muslim.
Kerry announced more than $290 million in additional aid for U.N. agencies and non-governmental organisations working with the nearly 3 million Syrian refugees in Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt.
Some $51 million of the funds, the largest chunk of the aid, will go to helping Lebanon which hosts the highest concentration of refugees as a percentage of population in the world.
Unlike some of Syria's other neighbours, Lebanon does not have formal refugee camps, leaving many families to find refuge within host communities.
More than $35 million of the additional funds will go to helping refugees in Jordan, $15 million to Turkey and the same amount to Iraq, while $4.5 million will support Egypt, the State Department said.
The power of the presidency, once the leading political office in Lebanon, was eroded under the accord which ended Lebanon's 1975-1990 civil war, handing greater influence to the government and prime minister.
A State Department official had said earlier that Kerry would renew a commitment by the United States to develop the capabilities of the Lebanese army to secure its borders and restore calm in parts of the country.
Lebanon has only two neighbours: Israel, with which it remains formally in a state of war, and Syria, where the conflict between President Bashar al-Assad and rebels is now in its fourth year.
Last Mod: 05 Haziran 2014, 10:06