Fateh rules out Hamas peace talks

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fateh faction ruled out talks with Hamas on Thursday as Israel warned any such dialogue with the Islamists could “torpedo” a peace deal with the Jewish state.Palestinian sources familiar with the matter said members of Hamas and Fateh had discussed holding peace talks, but Fateh leaders said they had not backed any meeting and rejected dialogue with Hamas unless it cedes control of the Gaza Strip, which it seized in fighting with Abbas’ forces in June.

“What happened in Gaza was a military coup against legitimacy and against democracy,” Abdullah Franji, who is close to Abbas and a member of secular Fateh’s central committee, told Reuters.

“If they retreat then we can talk. Now we cannot.” Abbas dismissed the Islamist Hamas-led Palestinian government in June after the violence in Gaza, ushering an easing of US and Israeli sanctions and plans for a peace conference next month.

Hamas’ Ismail Haniyeh, who was prime minister until June, said late on Wednesday Hamas was ready to hold talks with Fateh and hinted it might be ready to give up control of the enclave.

Israel, which is trying to bolster Abbas and sideline the Islamist group, said talks between the rival factions could “torpedo” efforts ahead of a US-sponsored peace conference to move towards a deal on establishing Palestinian statehood.

“We are concerned that if you… allow this extreme organisation which is opposed to reconciliation back to centre stage you will in fact torpedo any chance of moving forward,” Israel’s foreign ministry spokesman Mark Regev said.

Israel and the West have shunned Hamas until it recognises the Jewish state’s right to exist.

‘Non-binding’

Fateh leaders rejected Haniyeh’s calls for talks and said Hamas, struggling with the effects of an international boycott and an Israeli blockade of Gaza, was lying about wanting peace so as to shore up Palestinian support.

Palestinian sources familiar with the talks but not affiliated with either party said on Thursday Fateh official Jibril Rajoub had met senior Hamas official Mohammed Nazzal to discuss holding talks in Egypt.

But a Fateh official said on Thursday the meeting between Rajoub and Nazzal was “non-binding” and said Rajoub, a one-time senior Fateh security official who has been pushing for talks with Hamas, did not have the backing of Fateh leadership.

Rajoub declined to comment on the record.

“With the international restrictions on Hamas, they have started to feel the crunch,” the official said.

One source close to the talks said an exiled hardline Hamas leader would arrive in Cairo next week to prepare for talks between the factions.

Fateh refuses to talk to Hamas unless it pulls out of its security compounds in Gaza. Hamas says ceding control of the compounds must come as part of a deal, not as a precondition.

One Palestinian source said Hamas-Fateh talks would also touch on a Hamas ceasefire with Israel that could include a prisoner swap deal.

A Palestinian official said last month a prominent Hamas official tried to open discussions with Israel to ease confrontation in Gaza but was rebuffed by the Jewish state.

King discusses Mideast peace process with Merkel, Sarkozy

AMMAN (Petra) – His Majesty King Abdullah on Thursday called German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy and discussed means to enhance bilateral ties. During the phone calls, King Abdullah also discussed efforts to push the peace process forward in order to achieve a comprehensive and sustainable peace in the region.

On Wednesday, King Abdullah discussed the same issues, over phone, with King of Bahrain Hamad Ben Isa Al Khalifa, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero.

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