Abbas: No talks before cease-fire

Says Israel must reach truce with Hamas; Rice: We sent envoy to Egypt to mediate between two sides.

Abbas solomn  224 88 (photo credit: AP)
Abbas solomn 224 88
(photo credit: AP)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said Wednesday he would not resume peace talks with Israel until Jerusalem reached a truce with Hamas-in the Gaza Strip. Speaking to reporters at his West Bank headquarters in Ramallah, Abbas essentially ordered Israel to work out an arrangement with Hamas and said negotiations could not resume until the fighting ended. "The negotiations must be started, but after the truce," Abbas said. "Once the truce is achieved the road will be open for negotiations." Abbas said US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had informed him she was sending an envoy to Egypt, which often mediates between Israel and Hamas. "There are real efforts being exerted by Egypt for a truce," he said. He did not mention Hamas by name, but his aides said the Islamic group must clearly be part of a deal. The aides, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media, said Abbas has proposed a deal in which Hamas halts its incessant rocket attacks on southern Israel, while Israel end its military operation against Palestinian terrorists and eases the economic blockade of Gaza. Rice was meeting Israeli and Palestinian negotiators on Wednesday, hoping to persuade them to resume the talks. Ahmed Qureia, the chief Palestinian negotiator, told The Associated Press he had informed Rice that talks would resume "when the atmosphere on the ground is right for productive and meaningful negotiations, but the atmosphere on the ground ... makes it difficult for the negotiations to be productive." A day earlier, Abbas pointedly resisted Rice's pressure to return to the negotiating table, saying at a joint news conference that Israel first had to "halt its aggression."