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(photo credit: AP [File])
The Palestinian Authority on Thursday welcomed calls for holding an international conference for peace in the Middle East, saying it was prepared to resume talks with Israel over the implementation of the road map plan.
Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero announced the initiative at a summit with President Jacques Chirac of France. "Peace between Israel and the Palestinians means to a large extent peace on the international scene," Zapatero told a news conference.
The peace plan will be presented to an EU summit next month, Zapatero said, adding he hopes to win the backing of Britain and Germany as well.
Nabil Abu Rudaineh, a spokesman for PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, said: "We welcome any international effort designed to revive the stalled peace process and implement the road map."
Hamas, meanwhile, is interested in another truce with Israel because the Islamist movement fears the consequences of a massive IDF operation in the Gaza Strip in response to the continued firing of Kassam rockets at Israel, PA officials here said.
A senior Hamas official, Nasser Eddin Shaer, confirmed to The Jerusalem Post that his movement was prepared to declare a truce with Israel, saying he supported a "mutual cessation of violence and a return to the period of calm - tahdiyah.
Shaer, who met with Abbas to discuss the latest developments surrounding the establishment of a Palestinian unity government, said: "It's very important that any deal on a unity government include a mutual calm between the Israelis and Palestinians. If Israel halts the incursions, assassinations and breaches, we will stop firing rockets and missiles."
A PA official told the Post that Shaer made this position clear during his meeting with Abbas with the hope that the PA chairman would relay the message to the Israelis and Americans.
"Some Hamas leaders are apparently afraid of a huge Israeli military operation," the official said. "An escalation in the Gaza Strip will not serve their interests because many Hamas leaders and activists will be targeted. Hamas will pay a heavy price."
According to the PA official, the recent escalation, particularly the launching of Kassam rockets at Sderot and Ashkelon, was initiated by Hamas representatives who are opposed to the proposed unity government.
"We believe that Syria and Iran are trying to thwart the establishment of a unity government," he explained. "These two countries are inciting some Hamas leaders and activists against the unity government. They're hoping that a major Israeli military operation in the Gaza Strip will foil efforts to establish a unity government."