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Abbas: Palestinian unity government will recognize Israel, condemn terrorism

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RAMALLAH, West Bank – To find a way to calm critics of his reconciliation efforts with the militant Hamas group, as Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, said Saturday, the government he plans to unite would renounce violence and recognize Israel.

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Abbas who leads in the West Bank, and Hamas, the fundamentalist Islamic movement has controlled the Gaza Strip after the expulsion of Abbas’ forces in a brief armed battle in June 2007, had reached an agreement on Thursday to reconcile their differences.

Israel criticized the new pact and said it would not negotiate with a Palestinian government that included Hamas, which considered a terrorist organization. The U.S. said, would talk with the new government only, if it recognized Israel, renounced violence and accepted agreements reached with Israel.

There was a conflicting understanding between Abbas and Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu used to say that Abbas does not represent all Palestinians. And now that the West Bank and Gaza are about to reunite, Netanyahu says he will not negotiate with Abbas because he is working with Hamas.

Abbas said, at the opening session of a two-day meeting of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s Central Council, even though the new unity government, have nothing to do with negotiations, and will follow its own political platform.

“I recognize Israel and it [the new government] will recognize Israel,” he told the 120-strong Central Council, the PLO’s second highest legislative body.

Abbas said: “I reject violence and terrorism and the government will also reject violence and terrorism, and I recognize international legality and international commitments and the government will be committed to what I am committed to. No one can claim that this will be a government of extremists.”

Abbas met with International officials whom he assured of the same thing.

Robert Serry, special United Nations coordinator for the Middle East peace process, said in a statement after meeting with Abbas on Thursday that he was assured that the agreement with Hamas would be implemented under the leadership of Abbas and the PLO.

“President Abbas emphasized that these commitments include recognition of Israel, nonviolence and adherence to previous agreements,” said Serry. He added, that the United Nations continues to support Palestinian unity “on this basis as the only way to reunite the West Bank and Gaza under one legitimate Palestinian Authority.”

Abbas noted the new government would be composed of “independent technocrats,” meaning there will be no person from Hamas or even his Fatah party, and that its mission is to run the daily affairs of the Palestinian territories and for a long overdue presidential and legislative elections.

The current Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah had told Abbas that he would resign as soon as the unity government was formed.

With respect to negotiations with Israel, Abbas said, “Are the job of the PLO, because it represents the Palestinian people everywhere and has the authority to negotiate on behalf of the Palestinian people.”

In addition to being president of the Palestinian Authority and head of the Fatah movement, Abbas has also served as chairman of the PLO since the death of its former leader, Yasser Arafat, in 2004.

In spite of the reconciliation steps, Hamas boycotted the Ramallah meeting along with the crisis in the negotiations with Israel are among the items the Palestinian boy will discuss in its meeting.

Abbas said that he is willing to extend negotiations with Israel, which officially end in three days, by July if Israel would release the last group of long-detained Palestinian prisoners it would set free when the talks started in three-month time; freeze all settlement activities in the West Bank and East Jerusalem and present a map showing the borders of the Palestinian state.

He said without these three things, there would be no more negotiations.

President Obama said on Friday that there would be “a pause” in the negotiations until the parties came up with alternatives to salvage them.

Source: LA Times


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