(photo credit: AP)
Egypt's foreign minister said Palestinians will lose a chance for peace if they continue infighting, a state-run newspaper reported Tuesday.
"The Palestinian situation is marred by sharp divisions and battling; it is a misery and shameful for any Arab and any Palestinian," Ahmed Aboul Gheit was quoted as saying by the Al-Ahram newspaper.
"Those leaders and the Palestinian people will find out that they are losing a chance and a mobility that should have taken place and we lost it," he said.
Aboul Gheit criticized the Hamas government of Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, which is feuding with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah faction, for rejecting an Arab peace initiative which recognizes Israel and endorses the land-for-peace principle.
"The Palestinian prime minister rejects this initiative; then why doesn't he search for another one?" Aboul Gheit said, according to the interview.
He said the first step for reviving the peace process would be the release of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, abducted by a Hamas-linked terrorist group on June 25, in exchange for Israel freeing 1,000 Palestinian prisoners.
But, he said, that won't be accomplished without "an internal Palestinian reconciliation."
The newspaper quoted him as saying that Egypt, during the recent visit of US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to the region, with the United States formulated a new version of the "road map" peace plan in which Washington would present its vision of an independent Palestinian state, then invite all other parties to hold negotiations based on this vision.
Haniyeh on Sunday repeated Hamas' refusal to recognize Israel despite crippling Western sanctions which have bankrupted his government, led to strikes and demonstrations by public service workers and clashes between Hamas forces and police aligned with Fatah.
Haniyeh also said the main problem with the Arab peace plan, presented in 2002 by Saudi Arabia and endorsed by an Arab summit, is that it recognizes Israel in exchange for an Israeli pullout from the West Bank, Gaza Strip, east Jerusalem and Golan Heights.