WASHINGTON The United States would have to reconsider its assistance to the Palestinians if Islamist group Hamas and the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) form a government together, a senior U.S. administration official said on Thursday.
"Any Palestinian government must unambiguously and explicitly commit to nonviolence, recognition of the state of Israel, and acceptance of previous agreements and obligations between the parties," the official said, speaking to Reuters on condition of anonymity.
"If a new Palestinian government is formed, we will assess it based on its adherence to the stipulations above, its policies and actions, and will determine any implications for our assistance based on U.S. law," the official said.
The Gaza-based Hamas and President Mahmoud Abbas's PLO announced a unity pact on Wednesday, deepening a crisis in U.S.-brokered peace talks with Israel.
The move, coming after a long line of failed efforts to reconcile after seven years of internal bickering, envisions a unity government within five weeks and national elections six months later.
However, providing U.S. aid to a unity government that includes Hamas would be assistance to a group the United States lists as a terrorist organisation.
Both the United States and Israel greeted the announcement of the unity pact with dismay. Israel cancelled a session of talks with the Palestinians that had been scheduled for Wednesday and the State Department said the move could derail peace efforts.
"We are following reports of Palestinian reconciliation efforts," the U.S. official who spoke on Thursday said.
"We have been clear about the principles that must guide a Palestinian government in order for it to play a constructive role in achieving peace and building an independent Palestinian state."
(Reporting By Matt Spetalnick and Mark Felsenthal; Editing by Robert Birsel)