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'Israel Talks Possible' Despite Hamas Deal
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has said a unity government between Fatah and Hamas will follow his orders and be prepared to resume peace negotiations with Israel.
Addressing the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) in Ramallah, Mr Abbas said the reconciliation deal between the rival factions represented a "return to unity" for the Palestinian people, "both in terms of geography and hope".
He outlined plans for an independent "technocratic" government to be created within five weeks, and reaffirmed plans to hold elections by the end of the year.
The unity government, he said, would administer internal issues in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, but would not involve itself in any negotiations if they were to be resumed, as such talks would be undertaken solely by the PLO.
"The upcoming government will obey my policy," said Mr Abbas.
"I recognise Israel and reject violence and terrorism, and recognise international commitments."
He added that he was prepared for talks to resume if Israel released a fourth group of Palestinian prisoners and halted construction on Palestinian land.
The latest round of negotiations, marshalled by US Secretary of State John Kerry, was suspended on Thursday following a unanimous decision by the Israeli cabinet.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he would never negotiate with a Palestinian government involving Hamas and accused Mr Abbas of choosing a pact with Hamas over peace.
Hamas is deemed to be a terrorist organisation by much of the international community and has refused to recognise Israel or renounce violence.
However, attendees at the PLO meeting said reconciliation was an internal Palestinian issue and was central to the viability of a Palestinian state.
"We have to revitalise and re-legitimise our democracy as an inclusive system that is tolerant and pluralistic," said Hana Ashrawi, a senior member of the PLO executive.
"It is not our responsibility to deliver to Israel everything that it wants."
During his speech, Mr Abbas also shunned the accusation that the reconciliation deal had scuppered the talks, saying Israel had consistently acted in ways that contravened the terms of the negotiations.
He cited the continued construction of settlements on the West Bank and in East Jerusalem, and Mr Netanyahu's insistence that the Palestinians recognise Israel as a specifically "Jewish state" as evidence that the Israeli leader was bent on running talks into the ground.
Mr Abbas said the PLO had recognised Israel since 1993, and that it was unacceptable for Mr Netanyahu to insist he also accept it as a state with a single religious identity.
Hamas has responded to Mr Abbas' speech by welcoming it as "positive", without being drawn on whether it could accept recognition of Israel.
Bassem Naim, an advisor to Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniya, told the AFP news agency: "The speech had mostly positive points, and we cannot but support it on topics such as Jerusalem, reconciliation and not recognising (Israel as) the Jewish state, in addition to the failure of negotiations."