(photo credit: AP)
DAMASCUS, Syria — Hamas' exiled leader Khaled Mashaal said Tuesday the upcoming US-backed direct peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority are illegitimate and are the result of coercion by Washington.
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"These negotiations are taking place by force of coercion and with an American summons," Mashaal told reporters in Damascus, Syria on Tuesday.
He said the talks are "illegitimate and do not commit our people to anything."
The peace talks were shelved two years ago, but the US President Barack Obama and his administration are hoping for a breakthrough during the new rounds of negotiations set to begin Sept. 2.
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will be negotiating with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who holds sway only in the West Bank.
Addressing the officials of Abbas' movement, Mashaal said: "Wake up. Do not allow for these adventures and sins to take place under your name."
Earlier this week, Netanyahu demanded that any future Palestinian state be demilitarized and recognize Israel as the Jewish homeland.
Obama plans to hold separate discussions with Netanyahu and Abbas on
Sept. 1 and then host a dinner for both leaders, which will also be
attended by Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak and Jordan's King Abdullah
Mashaal called Mubarak and Abdullah not to take part, saying the
negotiations could have "catastrophic results" for the region.