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Abbas: 'PA will still negotiate with Israel'

Hamas declares it will not soften tone

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29 Avr 2011 (Toute la journée)
Abbas: 'PA will still negotiate with Israel'

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas declared on Thursday that negotiations with Israel remain possible, despite the Wednesday's announcment that Fatah and Hamas agreed to form a national unity interim government.

Abbas added assurance that the PLO will remain in charge of politics and negotiations with Israel, and "will continue our policy of one authority, one gun and the rule of law as long as I am president." He also said that the main priorities of the new Palestinian government would be rebuilding the Gaza Strip and planning the upcoming elections.

"I heard that Netanyahu said that Abu Mazen [Abbas] should choose between Israel and Hamas," Abbas continued. "I heard this for a few months and I made the answer that Hamas is part of the Palestinian people. I can't exclude them. Like or dislike, agree or disagree, they are part of our people. You, Mr. Netanyahu, are our partner. We can't exclude you, so we have to take both sides - not to choose between this and that. But please, Mr. Netanyahu, you have to choose between settlement activities and peace."

Netanyahu (Israel GPO)Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told a visiting US Congressional delegation that the Hamas-Fatah government would be a "great setback to peace," while Defense Minister Ehud Barak declared that Israel would not negotiate with a Fatah-Hamas government as long as Hamas continues terrorist attacks against Israel.

"This is seen not as a tactical change, but rather a strategic one - a game changer," said another Israeli official. "How can the Palestinian leadership say they want peace with Israel, and at the same time embrace the most extreme, violent enemies of peace?"

For their part, Hamas representatives went out of their way on Wednesday to tell reporters that the new agreement does not require them to accept the two-state solution or to engage in peace talks with Israel. Fatah officials have also been reticent to comment on what effect the new agreement would have on security cooperation with Israel in the West Bank, widely seen as crucial to the relative quiet there in recent years. Israel is also concerned that the PA might release Hamas prisoners as part of the new arrangement.

Elsewhere, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, chairwoman of the US House Foreign Affairs Committee declared on Thursday that US law would prevent the US from sending its annual $500 million assistance to the PA if Hamas was part of the unity government because the PA must recognize Israel's right to exist in order to receive the funding. These sentiments were echoed by other Congressional leaders as well as the Obama Administration. EU lawmakers have also voiced concern over the arrangement.

However, UN Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Robert Serry said on Thursday that he supports the initiative, adding that Palestinian "reunification is essential for achieving a two-state solution that should be reached through negotiations," while cautioning that he hopes "reconciliation will now take place in a manner that promotes the cause of peace."

Palestinian leaders from both factions have been especially warm in their praise of Egypt in helping to broker the new initiative and credited recent events in the region including the removal of Western backed governments in Egypt and other Arab countries as being instrumental in paving the way for the deal.

 

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