Hamas brands convergence a declaration of war

Abbas ready for a new round of talks with his Israeli counterparts.

Haniyeh talks 288.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
Haniyeh talks 288.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas said Thursday that he was ready to start immediate talks with Israel's new government to discuss ways of implementing the road map. Hamas, meanwhile, described Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's convergence plan to withdraw from some settlements in the West Bank as a "declaration of war on the Palestinians." Abbas was ready to meet with Olmert to revive the peace process, Abbas spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh said after Abbas's meeting with several foreign diplomats at his office in Ramallah. Abbas complained during the meeting about the severe financial crisis in the PA and urged the US and EU to reconsider their decision after Hamas's victory in January's parliamentary election to suspend direct aid to the PA. Former PA negotiator Saeb Erekat called on Olmert to resume negotiations immediately and to refrain from unilateral actions such as annexing settlements or building the security barrier. "Negotiations are the responsibility of the chairman of the PLO [Mahmoud Abbas]," Erekat said in response to Olmert's speech before the Knesset outlining his new government's policies. "If Mr. Olmert really wants to resume negotiations, he will find a partner that is ready for this. This partner is President Abbas and he's capable of doing this." Erekat said that settlement construction and unilateral measures would only widen the cycle of violence. "We urge Prime Minister Olmert to abandon these policies and to return to the negotiating table to end the occupation of the 1967 territories," he said. "Peace and settlements cannot go together." Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said Olmert's speech confirmed Israel's "hostile" policy toward the Palestinians. "There's nothing new and positive in this speech," he said. "Yasser Arafat signed the Oslo Accords and recognized Israel, but was still not considered a partner. The problem is with the occupation, and not our people." Abu Zuhri condemned Olmert's plan to keep large settlement blocs under Israeli sovereignty as a "declaration of war" on the Palestinians. "This is a real declaration of war on our people and we will confront it will all available means," he said. Abbas was scheduled to meet with PA Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh in Gaza City on Thursday, but sources close to the two said the meeting had been postponed until Friday. The meeting comes amid increased tensions between Hamas and Abbas's Fatah party. Meanwhile, Hamas leaders accused Fatah of waging a "propaganda war" against the Hamas-controlled PA government and its members and hinted that Abbas and his aides were involved in an international conspiracy aimed at bringing it down. Cabinet spokesman Ghazi Hamad called on Abbas and other Fatah leaders to refrain from meeting with the US consul-general in Jerusalem, Jacob Walles, or other American officials. Abbas met with Walles earlier this week in Ramallah to discuss the financial crisis in the PA. "The US consul-general is working against our government," Hamad said. "It's a disgrace to hold such meetings with the executioner and biggest criminal, the US. The US is doing its utmost to prevent countries and institutions from providing financial aid to the elected government. The US, which is responsible for killing Iraqi children, is now perpetrating a war crime against our people by starving and besieging them." The PA's civil servants have threatened to go on strike on Saturday to protest the government's failure to pay their March salaries. That threat drew sharp criticism from Hamad, who accused the employees of "immoral and unpatriotic" behavior. "Unfortunately, they know that the government is not responsible for the financial crisis," he said. "The government has managed to secure funds from donations, but the problem is with the US sanctions and siege." In Cairo PA Foreign Minister Mahmoud al Zahar was sheduled to meet Thursday night with his Egyptian counterpart Ahmed Abdoul Gheit. The meeting is in the context of efforts by Hamas to end international sanctions against its cabinet. Last month the Egyptian foreign minister said he was too busy to meet with al Zahar when he visited Cairo.