Abbas hints peace talks still possible after unity deal

PA president says new interim gov't would still be responsible for negotiations, says "Hamas is part of Palestinian people."

mahmoud abbas_311 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
mahmoud abbas_311
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas signaled on Thursday that peace talks with Israel would still be possible during the term of a new interim government formed as part of a unity deal with Hamas.
Abbas said the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), which he heads and to which Hamas does not belong, would still be responsible for "handling politics, negotiations."
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The comments came after senior Hamas official Mahmoud Zahar said the establishment of a Palestinian national unity government does not mean that Hamas will recognize Israel or will participate in peace negotiations.
"Our plan does not involve negotiations with Israel or recognizing it," Zahar said. "It will be impossible for an interim government to take part in the peace process with Israel."
In his comments, Abbas also addressed reactions by Israeli officials to the Hamas-Fatah unity deal, saying: "Netanyahu and Lieberman said yesterday that I had to choose between Israel and Hamas, but Hamas is part of the Palestinian people, and whether or not you like or agree with them, they are part of our nation and they cannot be extracted from us."
"Abbas’ statements came during a meeting with representatives of a private Israeli peace initiative called “The Israeli Initiative”. The initiative was launched earlier this month at a press conference in Tel Aviv, and counts among its members Israeli security services figures such as former Shin Bet chief Yaakov Perry and one-time Mossad Chief Danny Yatom.
The initiative seeks a two-state solution based on the Saudi Peace Initiative, which calls for an end to the conflict in exchange for recognition of Israel’s right to exist, a withdrawal to the 1967 lines, and a compromise on the Palestinian refugee issue."
Earlier Wednesday, representatives of the rival parties signed initial letters of the Egyptian-sponsored reconciliation agreement, said Izat Risheq, a member of the Hamas delegation that held talks in Cairo with Fatah officials.
He said Egypt would invite leaders of all Palestinian factions to attend the ceremony for the signing of the formal reconciliation agreement between PA President Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas chief Khaled Mashaal.
The Hamas delegation to the reconciliation talks was headed by Mashaal’s deputy, Moussa Abu Marzouk, while the Fatah team was headed by Azzam al-Ahmed.
Senior Hamas official and member of the Cairo delegation Mahmoud Zahar said the accord called for the formation of an interim unity government that would consist of “professional” figures, and reviving the work of the Palestinian parliament, the Palestinian Legislative Council, which has been paralyzed because of the Hamas-Fatah dispute.
The unity deal also excludes Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad from the interim government, The New York Times reported on Thursday.
The two parties have also agreed to release Hamas and Fatah prisoners held in each others' jails and to the establishment of a joint security committee, Zahar said.
Ahmed said the two sides had reached agreement on all points of contention, including the make-up of the unity government, fixing a date for presidential and parliamentary elections, and restructuring the PLO.
He said that next week, the Egyptians would summon representatives of all Palestinian factions to Cairo to hear their responses to the Hamas-Fatah deal.
Ben Hartman contributed to this report.