Abbas to resume unity government talks with Hamas

  • World
  • Sunday, 24 Sep 2006

By Wafa Amr

RAMALLAH, West Bank (Reuters) - Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will meet Hamas leaders in the Gaza Strip as early as Monday to try to revive stalled talks on a unity government, aides said. 

Senior Abbas aide Saeb Erekat said the president would tell Hamas: "If you want a unity government, there are international requirements that need to be met, and that's the only way to form a unity government." 

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas speaks to the media on his arrival in Amman September 23, 2006. Abbas will meet Hamas leaders in the Gaza Strip as early as Monday to try to revive stalled talks on a unity government, aides said. (REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed)

Abbas has accused Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh and other Hamas leaders of reneging on an agreement reached earlier this month on a political programme for a unity government that included recognition of interim peace deals with Israel. 

Palestinians hope formation of a unity government will prompt Western powers to ease an aid embargo that has increased poverty and lawlessness in Gaza and the occupied West Bank. 

The aid embargo was imposed when Hamas came to power in March to pressure the Islamic militant group to meet three conditions: recognise Israel, renounce violence and abide by interim peace deals. 

A breakdown in unity talks could lead to a flare-up in fighting between rival armed factions loyal to Hamas and Abbas's Fatah movement. Hamas trounced Fatah in parliamentary elections in January. 

"We will fight any government that recognises Israel," said Abu Abir, spokesman for the Popular Resistance Committees (PRC), an umbrella militant group often responsible for rocket attacks against Israel. 

The PRC statement was backed by three other militant groups, which are part of Fatah but are at odds with Abbas's peace policies. 

Erekat said Abbas would travel to Gaza on Monday or Tuesday to resume the talks. 

Yasser Abed Rabbo, an official with the umbrella Palestine Liberation Organisation headed by Abbas, said a unity government will not be possible unless Hamas accepts interim peace deals, an Arab peace initiative and other U.N. resolutions. 

"Otherwise it will suffer in the same way that the Hamas-monopolised government suffered. All factions that will participate in the unity government will be besieged in the same way Hamas is now," he said. 

Washington has threatened to shun Fatah members who join a government led by Hamas if that government does not meet the three conditions. 

Ghazi Hamad, a spokesman for the Hamas-led government, warned against setting preconditions for unity talks, and said Hamas was still "committed" to the agreement reached with Abbas. 

"I believe that international conditions are not acceptable to all Palestinians and Palestinian factions. Such an issue must be discussed by all factions to make a final decision," he said. 

Speaking at the General Assembly in New York on Thursday, Abbas said "any future Palestinian government" would honour all previous interim peace accords with Israel. 

But Hamas said it would not join any unity government that recognised Israel, which led Abbas to declare efforts to forge a new coalition were back to square one. 

(Additional reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi) 

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