Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Israel Threatens to Ignore Abbas

Contributed by Lucia

"AMMAN, Jordan (AP) -- Israel said Tuesday it would stop dealing with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas if he goes ahead with plans to join Hamas in a new government, as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Arab allies sought a way to break the Hamas logjam and push forward the stalled peace process......

Abbas said Israel may have "misunderstood" the agreement reached in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, between his moderate Fatah faction and the militant Hamas group, according to Jordan's official Petra news agency.

"We told Israel that this agreement was made to protect the unity of the Palestinian people and its national interests," Abbas was quoted as saying. "The agreement is an expression of support for Palestinian interests, but Israel may have misunderstood it."

But in Israel, Miri Eisin, spokeswoman for Olmert, ruled out any talks on a final peace deal with Abbas if he went ahead with plans to form a new Cabinet including Hamas. Israeli talks with Abbas would be limited to matters such as improving living conditions for the Palestinians and ending Palestinian attacks against Israel. "We're not talking about negotiations on final status issues," Eisin said.....

Rice invited security and intelligence chiefs from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates to Amman for the talks to ask their advice on what, if anything, can be done further to persuade Hamas to back down.

Tuesday's session at the government security headquarters in Amman included some of the region's wiliest and best-connected heavies, fixers and go-betweens, including Saudi national security adviser Prince Bandar bin Sultan and Egyptian intelligence head Omar Suleiman.

Suleiman has deep ties across Palestinian politics, including with Hamas. Rice has been meeting with him regularly since Hamas won Palestinian parliamentary elections 13 months ago.

Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the Emirates have all, in turn, tried their hand in recent months at convincing Hamas to moderate enough to meet Western conditions, with little success....."

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