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Sunday, March 1, 2009

Hamas rejects demand on Israel

Hesham Abu Taha, Arab News

GAZA: Hamas movement yesterday rejected Hillary Clinton’s demand to recognize Israel terming it as the “blatant interference into the Palestinian affairs.”

Hamas also rejected Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s demand to agree to a two-state solution with Israel.

News reports on Friday quoted new US Secretary of State as saying that talks to reconcile Palestinian factions will be fruitful only if Hamas agrees to recognize Israel and other international terms. Ismail Redwan, a senior Hamas leader said in statements that his movement refuses the American interference in the Palestinian affairs, stressing that Hamas will not change its stance which refuses to recognize the “Israeli enemy.”

Abbas said yesterday any unity government with Hamas would have to agree to a two-state solution with Israel.

The disagreement could hamper Egyptian-brokered reconciliation talks aimed at ending a schism between the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip and the occupied West Bank, where Abbas’s Fatah faction holds sway.

“We are moving in steady steps toward ... a national unity government that abides by our known commitments, which include the two-state vision and the signed (peace) commitments,” Abbas said in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

Hamas official Ayman Taha in Gaza said Abbas’s comments undermine chances for reaching a unity agreement.

“We reject any pre-conditions in the formation of the unity government. Hamas will never accept a unity government that recognizes Israel,” Taha said.

A dozen Palestinian factions including Fatah and Hamas began reconciliation talks in Cairo on Thursday to try to agree by March 20 on a unity government. Previous efforts by Arab negotiators to reconcile Fatah and Hamas have failed.

A deal could lead to the lifting of Israel’s blockade of the Gaza strip and boost Abbas’s peacemaking efforts with Israel.

The United States, Israel and the European Union shun dialogue with Hamas, citing its refusal to renounce violence, to recognize Israel and accept past peace agreements.

Abbas launched formal peace talks with Israel in 2007, though the negotiations have led to little progress.

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