Olmert to Abbas: Don't talk to Hamas

PM says Israel won't work with Fatah if it resumes dialogue with Islamist group.

July 16, 2007 16:58
2 minute read.
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Israel's gestures to the Palestinian Authority, as well as increasing cooperation with the new government, will end if PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas again agrees to a government condominium with Hamas, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told Abbas on Monday. According to Israeli officials, Olmert told Abbas - who pressed for the beginning of diplomatic negotiations - that Fatah-Hamas talks would be a cause for ending the emerging political process between Israel and the newly reconstructed PA. Shortly after the meeting, Hamas seemed to be sending a message of its own to Abbas and Olmert, as three Kassam rockets fell on Sderot. One rocket scored a direct hit on a home in Sderot while the other two landed in other parts of the city. No casualties were reported, although several people were treated for shock. Government sources said that Olmert, who told Abbas that 250 mostly Fatah prisoners would likely be released by Friday, called on the Palestinians to actively work against terrorism emanating from the West Bank. Olmert stressed the importance to Abbas from Israel's perspective of seeing law and order in the West Bank. Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat, who took part in the meeting, welcomed the prisoner release at a press conference he held in Ramallah, but called on Israel to free more prisoners. Olmert, during the meeting, praised Abbas for security steps he has already taken, such as his declaration banning the unauthorized carrying of weapons in the West Bank, and the agreement he hammered out with some 180 wanted Fatah men to hand in their guns and renounce terrorism in exchange for an Israeli commitment not to hunt them down. So far, according to Israeli officials, about 100 wanted men have turned over their weapons and signed the commitments. Abbas called on Olmert to continue providing humanitarian aid to Gaza, and Olmert committed himself to doing so, transferring aid to Gaza through NGOs and the private sector. Other than the humanitarian issue in Gaza, the talks - according to Israeli officials - focused almost exclusively on the West Bank. This was the first meeting between the two men since the Sharm e-Sheikh summit three weeks ago, and Israeli sources said that much of the two-and-a-half hours of the meeting, an hour of which was held in private, dealt with discussing the developments since the summit. The names of the prisoners who are scheduled to be released Friday, all of whom were convicted and sentenced for security offenses, but none of whom have blood on their hands or were involved in a suicide attack, will come before an interministerial committee headed by Olmert Tuesday morning for approval. Once the names are approved, as is expected, they will be publicized, and there will be a 48-hour period for people to appeal the decision in courts. If there are no appeals, or the appeals are not upheld, the prisoners - including 10 minors and about a handful of women - can be released Friday. Israeli officials described the talks as "positive and friendly" and said that what was significant in the meeting was the renewal of cooperation between Israel and the PA happening one step at a time. Final-status issues such as Jerusalem, refugees and final borders were not discussed. The two agreed to meet again in two weeks, possibly in Jericho, which would mark the first time that these bilateral meetings were held in the PA. Yaakov Katz contributed to this report.

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