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Quartet Agrees to Aid Palestinians
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The Middle East Quartet on Tuesday agreed to provide assistance to the Palestinian people through a temporary international mechanism.

The Quartet begun a series of crucial meetings Tuesday at the UN Headquarters in New York to explore ways of reviving the stalled peace process in the Middle East and avert a deepening humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip.

Representatives of the Quartet, including UN Secretary General Kofi Anna, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Austrian Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, High Representative for European Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana, and European Commissioner for External Relations Benita Ferrero-Waldner, held day-long high-level consultations at the UN headquarters in New York after meeting with the foreign ministers of Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan.

In a statement released after the consultations, the Quartet endorsed a temporary international mechanism to channel aid to the Palestinian people for a trial period to ease a financial squeeze on the new government following the election of Hamas.

"The quartet expressed its willingness to endorse a temporary international mechanism that is limited in scope and duration, operates with full transparency and accountability," the statement said.

It also said "a lack of action by the parties in certain key areas has stalled progress on the Roadmap," and urged both parties to avoid actions which could prejudge final status issues or undermine progress toward this goal.

The Quartet reiterated its grave concern that the Palestinian Authority government has so far failed to commit itself to the principles of nonviolence, recognition of Israel, and acceptance of previous agreements and obligations, and urged the Palestinian Authority to act decisively against terrorism and bring an end to violence.

It also expressed concern over Israeli military operations that result in the loss of innocent life, and urged both parties to avoid unilateral measures which prejudice final status issues.

Washington has vowed to suspend all dealings with Hamas, officially named the Islamic Resistance Movement, until the alleged a terrorist organization renounces its armed struggle against Israel and recognizes the Jewish state's right to exist.

However, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told reporters at a news conference that "the thrust of the statement is that the international community is still trying to respond to the needs of the Palestinian people."

"It is to provide assistance to the Palestinian people so they do not suffer deprivation," she added.

Ferrero-Waldner told reporters that EU proposed to have a meeting of experts as soon as possible in Brussels in order to draw up the parameters for the EU-initiated mechanism.

She hoped such kind of mechanism could be set up in a few weeks.

On another development, Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh said Wednesday that Hamas and Fatah have reached an agreement to put an end to days of armed skirmishes which had left several faction fighters dead.

After hours of talks with Hamas and Fatah leaders, Haniyeh told a press conference that the two factions have agreed to cease the violence.

He said both sides believed that only through dialogue could the differences be resolved.

Gunmen from the groups exchanged fire Monday after the Fatah militants allegedly abducted four Hamas' fighters.

Three gunmen were killed in the clash, two from Fatah and one from Hamas. There were at least 10 other militants injured.

Clashes flared up again on Tuesday as Fatah militants were holding a funeral for the killed one day earlier. More than 15 people, mostly students on their way to school, were wounded in the clashes.

(Xinhua News Agency May 10, 2006)

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