Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Friday that Mideast peace talks should resume despite an outbreak of violence among Palestinian factions.
“It doesn’t help to talk about a timetable, but it does help to talk about a commitment,” Rice said after meeting with world powers for a strategy session on the Middle East.
The gathering of would-be peacemakers comes amid renewed fighting between Hamas militants and security forces loyal to the former ruling Fatah Party that has raised new alarm about a possible Palestinian civil war.
More than 100 Palestinians have been killed in internal violence since Hamas won parliamentary elections last year and formed a Cabinet.
Despite that violence, “there’s simply no reason to avoid the subject of how we get to a Palestinian state,” Rice said after a meeting at the State Department with foreign ministers from Russia, the European Union and the United Nations.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that in helping to advance the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, “Syria could play a constructive role.”
However, Rice expressed little enthusiasm for such a prospect. “I hope that it (Syria) will in fact try and play a positive role rather than a negative one,” she told reporters.
The Bush administration has resisted expanding diplomatic ties with Syria, which it blames for lending support to radical Islamic groups Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in the Palestinian territories.
The international leaders did not back away from the conditions they set for the Hamas-led Palestinian government to receive vital overseas financial aid and international political recognition.
Those conditions include recognition of Israel, renouncing violence and embracing prior agreements between Israel and the Palestinians to work toward peace.
Rice was asked about the violence that swept across Gaza on Friday.
“We expressed our concern about events on the ground in the Palestinian territories. Obviously innocent people are being caught up in this violence and it needs to stop,” she said.
“That said, there is simply no reason to avoid the subject of how we get to a Palestinian state,” Rice said. “The Palestinian people have waited a long time for a state and the Israeli people have waited a long time for the peace and security that would come from having a democratic neighbor.”
The leaders reaffirmed a strong statement they signed a year ago, days after Hamas won a surprise victory in Palestinian elections, setting forth the conditions for the peace process.
Hamas has refused to meet those terms, leading to a cutoff of direct international aid and a breakdown of services and order in the Palestinian territories. World powers have largely abandoned hope that Hamas radicals will drop the anti-Israel positions and are looking for a new approach.