Abbas: Palestinian Unity Government Will Recognize Israel, Condemn Terrorism

But Palestine Liberation Organization alone will be in charge of negotiations with Israel, Palestinian president says, adding that he is ready to extend talks in return for prisoner release, settlement freeze.

Jack Khoury
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Palestinian Authority President Mahmud Abbas gestures as he gives a speech during a meeting with the Palestine Liberation Organization's Central Council in the West Bank on April 25, 2014.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmud Abbas gestures as he gives a speech during a meeting with the Palestine Liberation Organization's Central Council in the West Bank on April 25, 2014.Credit: AFP
Jack Khoury

Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas said on Saturday the unity government with Hamas would recognize Israel and condemn terrorism, but he said that Palestine Liberation Organization alone – and not the new government – will be in charge of the negotiations with Israel.

Abbas said he was still ready to extend the stalled peace talks, as long as Israel met his long-standing demands to free prisoners and halt construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Abbas responded to criticism that his party is reconciling with a terror organization saying that Israel had also made agreements with Hamas during the presidency of Mohammed Morsi in Egypt.

Israel suspended the troubled, U.S.-brokered negotiations with Abbas on Thursday after he signed a unity pact with rival Islamist group Hamas - a movement which has sworn to destroy Israel.

Commentators said the discussions had already hit a brick wall before the reconciliatoin, and the United States had been struggling to extend them beyond an original April 29 deadline for a peace accord.

Abbas, for the first time since the suspension of talks, said he was still open to re-starting the negotiations and pushing on beyond the deadline. There was no immediate response from Israeli negotiators.

"How can we restart the talks? There's no obstacle to us restarting the talks, but the 30 prisoners need to be released," Abbas told a meeting of senior leaders in the Palestine Liberation Organization at his presidential headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

"On the table we will present our map, for 3 months we'll discuss our map. In that period, until the map is agreed upon, all settlement activity must cease completely," he told the officials, who were gathered for a two-day conference to assess the Palestinian strategy to achieve statehood.

"Without these conditions, we will tell Israel to go ahead and take responsibility over the West Bank and the daily affairs of the Palestinians" Abbas said.

Talks veered toward collapse after Israel refused to release a final group of Palestinian prisoners it had pledged to free in March, and after Abbas signed several international treaties - a move that Israel said was a unilateral move towards statehood.

Palestinians accused Israel of not focusing enough during the last nine months of negotiations on drawing future borders between Israel and the future state of Palestine, and they denounced the expansion of Jewish settlements on Palestinian lands.

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