Abbas rejects calls to suspend talks

In wake of raid, Hamas presses PA president to suspend negotiations.

Abbas half smile profile 311 (photo credit: AP)
Abbas half smile profile 311
(photo credit: AP)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Tuesday rejected calls to suspend peace talks with Israel and said that the US-sponsored “proximity” negotiations would continue despite the IDF operation against the Gaza-bound convoy.
Abbas made the announcement during a phone conversation with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
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Abbas had come under heavy pressure from Hamas and other Palestinian factions to halt the indirect talks with Israel in protest of the IDF operation.
Meanwhile, the PA and Hamas expressed deep satisfaction with Egypt’s decision to reopen the Rafah border crossing.
Abbas thanked Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak for reopening the terminal between the Gaza Strip and Egypt in response to the Israeli “crime” against the aid ships, a senior Palestinian official in Ramallah said.
Abbas has also decided to reach out to Hamas, in a bid to end the power struggle between his Fatah faction and the Islamist movement, the official told The Jerusalem Post.
He said that Abbas had asked Palestinian businessman Munib al-Masri to head a high-level delegation of Palestinian officials that would travel to the Gaza Strip to discuss ways of achieving “reconciliation” between the two parties, the official added.
The delegation would consist of senior PLO and Fatah officials, including ones who fled the Gaza Strip after Hamas’s violent takeover of the enclave in the summer of 2007.
Masri, who lives in Nablus, said the delegation would travel to Gaza either through the Erez crossing to the northern Strip or the Rafah border crossing from Sinai.
“We must achieve intra-Palestinian reconciliation,” he said. “We must forget the wounds for the sake of the unity and future of the Palestinian people.”
Muhammad Dahlan, a former Fatah security commander from the Gaza Strip who is wanted by Hamas, said that Fatah and PLO leaders who met in Ramallah late on Monday night had decided to dispatch a top delegation to launch talks with the movement.
Hamas said it would not agree to hold “reconciliation” talks with Fatah unless the PA halted security coordination and indirect talks with Israel and released all Hamas supporters from its West Bank jails.
Salah Bardaweel, a Hamas legislator and spokesman in Gaza City, said his movement had no time for such initiatives and visits.
“They keep coming and going only to ask us to accept the latest Egyptian proposal for ending the [Hamas-Fatah] dispute,” he said. “We have no more time to waste.”
Bardaweel said that before talking about ending the dispute, the PA should stop all contacts with Israel, including the indirect talks and security coordination.
“The Palestinian Authority must also stop its campaign of arrests and harassment against young men, women and the elderly in the West Bank. They must stop torture in their prisons,” he said.
Mashaal welcomes Rafah border opening
Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal welcomed the decision to reopen the Rafah border crossing and called on Mubarak not to close it again.
Addressing Mubarak, he said, “You began your life as a fighter against the Zionist occupation. Now we call on you to take a strong and courageous decision to keep the Rafah terminal permanently open and end your life with this brave decision.”
Mubarak, 82, had a long career in the Egyptian Air Force and commanded it during the Yom Kippur War.
Mashaal said Hamas was not opposed to the presence of European monitors at the border crossing to make sure that weapons were not smuggled into the Gaza Strip.
Mashaal also urged Fatah to join Hamas in “resisting the occupation” and putting the Palestinian house in order.
He condemned security coordination between the PA and Israel as a“crime,” saying there was no reason Israel should be rewarded for itsactions.
“Why should [Prime Minister Binyamin] Netanyahu give you anything ifyou are opposed to an intifada and are fighting and arrestingresistance fighters?” he asked. “If we are united, the Arabs will standwith us.”
Mashaal, who was speaking at a press conference in Yemen, called forbringing Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak to trial forcommitting “war crimes.” He said Hamas wanted a “new Goldstone Report”– a reference to the UN commission of inquiry into Operation Cast Lead,headed by South African Judge Richard Goldstone.