Hamas, Abbas dialogue talks set to start

"We urge the Arab League to sponsor this dialogue and reconciliation, as it did with our Lebanese brothers," Haniya said, adding that the talks should take place on the understanding that there was "neither victor nor vanquished."

Hamas, Abbas dialogue talks set to start
The rival Fatah and Hamas factions were set to start reconciliation talks after the Islamists in the Gaza Strip on Thursday welcomed a call from Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas for national dialogue.

A year after the Islamists seized power in Gaza, Ismail Haniya, said he welcomed the chance to talk as soon as possible.

"We welcome the call by president Abbas to hold a national dialogue and the new positive spirit in his speech, and we state that our hand reaches out for national unity," Haniya said.

The US-backed Abbas on Wednesday unexpectedly called for talks with Hamas.

"We call for the immediate launch of a national dialogue based on the Yemen initiative" that foresees a return to the situation in the Gaza prior to the Hamas takeover, Haniya said.

He said Hamas was ready to be flexible to ensure that the dialogue succeeds, and he asked Fatah to do the same.

"We urge the Arab League to sponsor this dialogue and reconciliation, as it did with our Lebanese brothers," Haniya said, adding that the talks should take place on the understanding that there was "neither victor nor vanquished."

The Arab League oversaw a deal struck on May 21 in the Qatari capital of Doha between rival Lebanese politicians, ending an 18-month crisis that erupted into street battles that killed 65 people.

Abbas also wants the talks to be based on the Yemeni-brokered reconciliation deal which Hamas and Fatah reached in March but failed to implement amid disagreements over its conditions.

He had insisted the talks could only start after a return to the political status quo that existed before Hamas seized Gaza -- a condition the Islamists rejected.

But Abbas made no mention of this condition in his speech Wednesday and tactfully referring to the Hamas takeover as "divisions" rather than a "coup."

His proposal came as peace talks between the Palestinians and Israel -- which Hamas opposes -- have made no progress despite both sides' stated target of reaching a deal this year.

Abbas's office said he briefed US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on his initiative in a phone call on Thursday before Haniya's television speech.

In Wednesday's address marking the 41st anniversary of the 1967 Middle East war that ended with the occupation of Palestinian territories, including east Jerusalem, Abbas had harsh words for Israel.

"Peace and security... cannot be attained through swords of occupation or bulldozers of settlements. The Israeli decisions to annex Jerusalem and build settlements in the city and in the West Bank, along with the separation 'apartheid' wall, are void and null," he said.

Abbas also demanded Israel lift its crippling blockade of Gaza, which he called a war crime against the Palestinians.

Israel, which officially opposes any direct talks with Hamas, like Washington avoided publicly criticising Abbas for reaching out to his rivals.

"We have no interest in feeding a public polemic with Abbas who is our partner in the peace process. We tell him directly what we have to say," said foreign ministry spokesman Arye Mekel.

Hamas won Palestinian legislative elections in January 2006.

Agencies

Güncelleme Tarihi: 06 Haziran 2008, 14:02
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