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Abbas: New govt recognizes Israel and rejects violence

April 26, 2014 2:30 P.M. (Updated: May 6, 2014 4:14 P.M.)
RAMALLAH (Ma'an) -- President Mahmoud Abbas said Saturday that the unity government would continue to follow previous PLO policies and that he remains willing to extend peace talks with Israel, which halted the talks in response to a Fatah-Hamas unity deal signed earlier in the week.

During a televised speech kicking off two days of PLO Central Council meetings in Ramallah, Abbas reasserted that he would be willing to extend negotiations with Israel if it pledged to freeze settlement construction and release the last round of prisoners as agreed at the beginning of the talks.

Israel has dismissed the conditions.

"The upcoming government will obey my policy," Abbas told the PLO council. "I recognize Israel and reject violence and terrorism, and recognize international commitments."

"Without Jerusalem there will be no negotiations," Abbas added, pledging also that the Palestinians would never recognize Israel as a "Jewish state."

Abbas said that the Palestinian recognized it as a state in 1993 and should not have to accept its religious identity, which has been a central Netanyahu demand.

He pointed out that no similar demand was made of Egypt or Jordan when they signed peace treaties recognizing Israel.

He applauded the efforts of US Secretary of State John Kerry, with whom Abbas said he met 40 times during the past nine months.

"He was serious and he put in a huge effort, but unfortunately without results."

With regards to Wednesday's reconciliation deal with Hamas, Abbas said the unity government would recognize Israel and renounce violence.

"The upcoming government will obey my policy," he said. "I recognize Israel and reject violence and terrorism, and recognize international commitments."

A senior Hamas official in Gaza concurred told AFP that the it was a "mostly positive" speech.

"It is not the government's mission to take care of political issues," Bassem Naim, an adviser to Hamas' Gaza premier Ismail Haniyeh, said.

"It has only three main missions: unifying the Palestinian organizations, preparing for elections and reconstructing Gaza."

Abbas spoke ahead of Palestinian crisis talks expected to focus on US peace efforts and the unity deal.

Wednesday's PLO-Hamas deal infuriated Israel, which said it would "not negotiate with a Palestinian government backed by Hamas, a terror organization that calls for the destruction of Israel," and vowed unspecified "measures" in response.

The PLO recognized Israel's right to exist in 1988, but say that recognizing Israel as a "Jewish state" could jeopardize the right of return for Palestinian refugees and limit the rights of Palestinian citizens of Israel.

AFP contributed to this report.

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