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This note briefly considers the Middle East diplomatic Quartet, composed of the US, the UN, the EU and Russia, and its three principles governing engagement: the renunciation of violence, the recognition of the State of Israel and the acceptance of previous diplomatic agreements.

The principles are particularly controversial in the light of the unity agreement between Hamas and Fatah, since Hamas has been excluded from peace negotiations and financial aid on the grounds that it does not endorse them.

• Western governments have said that they will stick to the principles, but that they will wait until they see further details of any proposed unity government before deciding whether to deal with it

• Israel has rejected the unity agreement, saying that it makes a peace deal less likely

• Critics have said that the principles are an impediment to a peace deal and some have suggested that acceptance of the principles should be a goal of negotiations rather than a precondition

• So far, Hamas does not appear to have changed its policies significantly in relation to the principles

• Hamas policies have for some time offered the possibility of an end to violence and an accommodation with Israel, but not on the terms that the Quartet have found acceptable

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