Hoyer to Abbas: Don't talk to Hamas

Mashaal: Certain regional and int'l parties seek to widen Palestinian divide.

jp.services1 (photo credit: )
(photo credit: )
Hamas's Syria-based political leader Khaled Mashaal accused certain regional and international forces of trying to widen the chasm between Fatah and Hamas. Mashaal made his comments on Wednesday during a visit to Yemen, where he is due to hold talks with President Ali Abdallah Saleh on the 'regrettable' situation in the Palestinian territories. Speaking to the Yemeni Sabaa agency, Mashaal said he wishes to consult with Saleh, especially "in light of pressure exerted by certain regional and international parties who do not want any reconciliation and even seek to deepen the divide in the face of Israeli stubbornness." Observers believe that Yemen is attempting to mediate between Fatah and Hamas, which are entangled in a political standoff, following Hamas' seizure of the Gaza Strip in mid-June. Meanwhile, US House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer has warned Abbas not to talk to an unreformed Hamas about reentering a unity government ahead of a visit to Israel and the West Bank next week. "Dealing with Hamas and being in any coalition with Hamas [without Hamas accepting international demands to stop terrorism and recognize Israel] would be something which we would look on with opposition and suspicion," Hoyer (D-Maryland) told The Jerusalem Post in a telephone interview Wednesday. He said such a government would be a "setback" and a "cause for concern." Hoyer's comments followed a Post report that officials from Abbas's Fatah party have been conducting secret negotiations with Hamas about a possible reconciliation, with the help of mediators from Arab countries. Hoyer also told the Post that the Bush administration should be pursuing diplomatic discussions with Iran more vigorously, endorsing the Baker-Hamilton report's recommendations for engagement with Syria and Iran. He called for "more biting" sanctions against Iran at the United Nations and for Europe to cut its trade with Iran in order to halt the development of a nuclear weapon, which he warned would destabilize the Middle East. There is also the potential for the massive arms deal to Saudi Arabia to threaten stability in the region, as well as Israel's security, Hoyer warned, unless proper precautions are taken. He would not go so far as to oppose the deal, as many other Democratic Congressmen have, but did indicate he had some concerns about its implications. Hoyer said aid to Saudi Arabia, as well as Egypt, had not in the past resulted "in the kind of positive support that I would have hoped for." He was strongly supportive of aid to Israel. He said the specifics of the deal, which had originally been expected to be concluded this week, would be the subject of discussions between a delegation of some 20 Democratic members of Congress and Israeli leaders. Hoyer will be leading the delegation on a weeklong trip that will include meetings with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Abbas. Most of the Congressmen are in their first terms, including Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota, the first Muslim member of Congress. It will be his second trip to Israel since being elected in November. The trip is being sponsored by the American Israel Education Foundation, an independent, nonprofit charitable organization affiliated with AIPAC, which is also leading another trip for Republican representatives.