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Abbas Mitchell 311.(Photo by: Associated Press)
'US to ensure no provocations'
Abbas, ahead of Mitchell talks: Israel gave us no assurances on J’lem.
The US has assured the Palestinians there will be no “acts of provocation” by any party during the indirect talks between the PA and Israel next week, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said on Thursday.

“The Americans stressed that neither party would be allowed to take measures or provocations that would harm the negotiations,” Abbas told the London-based pan-Arab daily Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper. “We relayed the US statement as it is to the Arab League meeting, which approved the launching of the indirect talks.”

The PA understood that acts of “provocation” include settlement construction by Israel and incitement by the Palestinians, he said.

Abbas’s comments were published on a day when US envoy George Mitchell met for the second time in 24-hours with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. The talks are taking place amid an almost total news blackout, with neither side releasing any information about the discussions.

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Mitchell is expected to meet with Abbas on Friday and Saturday, before leaving the region on Sunday.

Abbas admitted that the PA did not receive any specific assurances regarding construction in Jewish neighborhoods in east Jerusalem. He also denied that Israel had promised to release Palestinian prisoners ahead of the talks.

Asked about the growing tensions between Fatah and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad’s PA government, Abbas said, “Fatah members have the right to say whatever they want. They have the right to like or hate Salam Fayyad. This is a large faction with different opinions. But at the end of the day this is my government. I choose the government and it implements my policy.”

Abbas reiterated his opposition to Fayyad’s plan to unilaterally declare a Palestinian state by August 2011. He said that he and Fatah were opposed to the plan because the declaration should be made through an agreement (with Israel).

Abbas also launched a scathing attack on Hamas, saying there were no real differences between the Islamist movement and Fatah.

“Hamas says it’s against the firing of rockets and is talking about a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders,” the PA president noted. “So what’s the difference between us and them? There is no difference. This is no longer an ideological or political issue.”

He said Hamas was smuggling weapons into the West Bank while it was punishing Palestinians who fire rockets from the Gaza Strip. “Every day we seize [Hamas weapons],” he said.

Abbas said that despite the crisis, Fatah and Hamas were continuing to search for ways to achieve reconciliation. However, “outside forces” (a reference to Iran and Syria) did not want a solution to the Hamas-Fatah dispute.

Herb Keinon contributed to this report.
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