'Hamas must play role in peace'

Peres tells gathering in Spain that group is an important force in process.

peres in spain 298 ap (photo credit: AP [file])
peres in spain 298 ap
(photo credit: AP [file])
Hamas is an important force in the peace process and must play a role in it, Vice Premier Shimon Peres told a gathering in Spain on Tuesday night, the Efe News Agency reported. He also recognized the group's importance in the religious sphere and in the economy of Gaza. But he stressed that Mahmoud Abbas was the "president of the Palestinian people" and that Israel felt it could reach agreements with him to end the violence. Peres expressed hope that the Palestinian groups Fatah and Hamas will resolve their differences so that they can both work together with Israel for peace in the Middle East, Spanish news reports said. Speaking in the southern city of Seville, Peres said he was aware of the "profound differences" between Fatah leader and Palestine National Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, of the Islamic movement Hamas, but that it was necessary for the two to cooperate, national news agency Efe reported. Peres was in Seville accompanying members of the Israeli soccer squad who are to team up with Palestinian players to play a friendly match Wednesday against a team representing the southern Spanish region of Andalusia. The proceeds from the match are to go toward financing schools next year in Palestinian territories in a project sponsored by the Andalusian regional government. Israeli singer Noa is to perform before the game while former French soccer star Michel Platini was to make the honorary kickoff. Talks between Abbas and Hamas to former a national unity government have foundered over the latter's refusal to recognize Israel, renounce violence and accept existing peace deals.