RAMALLAH, West Bank — Seeking to calm critics of his reconciliation efforts with the militant
Abbas, who rules in the West Bank, and Hamas, the fundamentalist Islamic movement that has controlled the Gaza Strip after ousting Abbas' forces in a brief armed battle in June 2007, reached an agreement on Thursday to reconcile their differences.
Israel strongly criticized the new pact and said it would not negotiate with a Palestinian government that included Hamas, which it and others consider a terrorist organization. The U.S. said it would talk with the new government only if it recognized Israel, renounced violence and accepted agreements reached with Israel.
Abbas criticized the Israeli position, saying that when there was a division between his backers and Hamas, Israeli Prime Minister
Nevertheless, in a bid to assure Israeli and U.S. leaders, Abbas said at the opening session of a two-day meeting of the Palestine Liberation Organization's Central Council here that even though the new unity government will have nothing to do with negotiations, it will follow his own political platform.
"I recognize Israel and it [the new government] will recognize Israel," he told the 120-strong Central Council, the
"I reject violence and terrorism and the government will also reject violence and terrorism, and I recognize international legality and international commitments and the government will be committed to what I am committed to," he said. "No one can claim that this will be a government of extremists."
International officials who met with Abbas in the last few days said he assured them of the same thing.
Robert Serry, special
"President Abbas emphasized that these commitments include recognition of Israel, nonviolence and adherence to previous agreements," said Serry, who added that the United Nations continues to support
Abbas noted that the new government would be composed of "independent technocrats," meaning it would not include any person from Hamas or even his
He said current Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah had told Abbas that he would resign as soon as the unity government was formed.
Negotiations with Israel, said Abbas, "are the job of the PLO because it represents the Palestinian people everywhere and has the authority to negotiate on behalf of the Palestinian people."
In addition to being president of the Palestinian Authority and head of the Fatah movement, Abbas has also served as chairman of the PLO since the death of its former leader, Yasser Arafat, in 2004.
The agreement with Hamas, whose Central Council members have nevertheless boycotted the Ramallah meeting in spite of the reconciliation steps, along with the crisis in the negotiations with Israel are among the items the Palestinian body will discuss in its meeting.
Abbas said he was ready to extend negotiations with Israel, which officially end in three days, by three months if Israel would release the last group of long-detained Palestinian prisoners it had said it would set free when the talks started in July, freeze all settlement activities in the West Bank and East Jerusalem and present a map showing the borders of the Palestinian state.
He said that without the three things, there would be no more negotiations.