'Turn back clock on Gaza situation'

UAE ministers: Recognize Abbas but give Hamas parliamentary majority.

Saud Al Faisal 224 88 (photo credit: AP [file])
Saud Al Faisal 224 88
(photo credit: AP [file])
The foreign ministers of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) called on Palestinians to "turn the clock back" in Gaza, and return the Strip to the conditions prevalent prior to Hamas's violent takeover last month, Israel Radio reported overnight Thursday. The UAE ministers published their joint statement following a discussion they held in the Saudi town of Jeddah, on the shore of the Red Sea. The ministers called on the Palestinian people and the international community to recognize the authority of Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, while respecting the victory of Hamas in the 2006 Palestinian elections by giving the group the majority of seats in the Palestinian parliament. Saudi Foreign Minister Saud Al-Faisal called on the Arab League to press the special ad hoc committee established for the purpose of investigating the events leading up to Hamas's Gaza takeover to present its conclusions. The ministers meeting at Jeddah also agreed to establish a joint center for dealing with crises and emergency situations. While the resolution does not mention Iran by name, the Islamic republic's nuclear efforts was seen as the main catalyst for establishing the center, Israel Radio reported. Meanwhile, the United States responded to the release of BBC reporter Alan Johnston, held captive in Gaza for four months. Washington said Thursday that it had not changed its view of Hamas as a terrorist organization despite its success in wresting Johnston from captivity. Johnston was kidnapped by the Army of Islam, a shadowy group operated by the Dughmush clan, an armed family which worked with Hamas but fell out of favor with the group over the last few months. Former PA prime minister Ismail Haniyeh, of Hamas, held a press conference with Johnston immediately following his release during which he attempted to credit Hamas's Gaza operations with Johnston's release, in an effort to capitalize on the affair in order to gain legitimacy for Hamas, internationally isolated since it came to power following the Palestinian elections. Khaled Abu Toameh contributed to this report.