27 April 2014, 18:20

Israel will not negotiate with Hamas-backed Palestinian gov't – Netanyahu

Israel will not negotiate with Hamas-backed Palestinian gov't – Netanyahu

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reiterated on Sunday that his government would not take part in Middle East peace talks with a Palestinian government backed by Islamist group Hamas, according to Reuters. Netanyahu also said Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's comments earlier on Sunday denouncing the Holocaust could not be reconciled with his alliance with Hamas.

"We will not negotiate with a government backed by Hamas," Netanyahu said on the CNN program "State of the Union."

Israel on Thursday suspended US-sponsored peace talks with the Palestinians after Abbas announced a unity pact with the rival Palestinian group. Hamas is viewed by the United States, the European Union and Israel as a terrorist organization.

Apparently seeking to build bridges, Abbas said in a statement released on Sunday that the Nazi Holocaust was "the most heinous crime" against humanity in modern times.

Abbas has condemned the mass killings of Jews in World War Two before and challenged allegations, stemming from a 1983 book he authored, that he is a Holocaust denier.

"President Abbas can't have it both ways. He can't say the Holocaust is terrible but at the same time embrace those who deny the Holocaust and seek to perpetrate another destruction of the Jewish people," Netanyahu said on CNN.

"I think what President Abbas is trying to do is to placate Western public opinion that understands that he delivered a terrible blow to the peace process," he said.

Holocaust 'most heinous crime' of modern era – Palestine's Abbas

What happened to the Jewish people in the Nazi Holocaust was "the most heinous crime" against humanity in the modern era, Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas said in a statement Sunday. 

He also expressed sympathy with the families of the victims in a statement in English which was released as Israel was to begin marking Holocaust remembrance day at sundown, AFP reports.

Palestine ready for talks with Israel if it suspends settlement activity

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said he was ready to continue the talks with Israel provided the latter releases Palestinian prisoners under the fourth stage of amnesty and suspends the construction of new settlements in the West Bank.

Abbas made the statement at his Mukataa residence in Ramallah at a meeting of the Palestine Liberation Organisation leadership on Saturday, April 26.

"There are no obstacles to resuming the talks [with Israel], but 30 prisoners must be released," he said, adding that Palestine was prepared to discuss a map of its borders for the next three months, during which all settlement activities must be stopped.

Palestinian still seeks talks extension – president Abbas

Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas said on Saturday he was still ready to extend stalled peace talks with Israel, as long as it met his long-standing demands to free prisoners and halt building on occupied land.

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

Commentators said the discussions had already hit a brick wall 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, said he was still open to re-starting the talks 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 occupied 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.

Talks veered toward collapse after Israel failed 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 occupied land.

Israel accuses Abbas of being more interested in healing the national rift with Hamas than achieving a peace deal.

Palestinians never to recognize Israel as 'Jewish state' - Abbas

Palestinians will never recognize Israel as the "Jewish state," president Mahmud Abbas said Saturday, as his leadership convened to chart a course of action after Israel halted peace talks.

"In 1993 we recognized Israel," Abbas told members of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s Central Council, adding that the Palestinians should not be forced to go a step further and recognize Israel's religious identity.

Israel had made recognition of it as a "Jewish state" a key demand in peace talks, which it withdrew from after Abbas's PLO on Wednesday signed a reconciliation deal with the Islamist Hamas movement, which does not recognize Israel's right to exist, AFP reports.

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