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April 14, 2016 7:05 am

PA President Abbas: Reconciliation With Hamas ‘Top Priority’

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Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal (L) and PA President Mahmoud Abbas. Palestinian officials met in Doha on Sunday, as part of a Qatar-led initiative to cause rival factions Fatah and Hamas to reconcile. Photo: Jewish Policy Center.

Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal (L) and PA President Mahmoud Abbas in Doha in 2015. Photo: Jewish Policy Center.

The head of the Palestinian Authority has made it one of his top priorities to reconcile with Gaza-based terror group Hamas, he said in an interview with Russian state news agency Sputnik published Wednesday.

PA President Mahmoud Abbas said that Palestinian infighting is detracting from resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “Reconciliation is a top priority on our agenda, we want to achieve our unity as soon as possible to be able to focus on the only real priority which is to end the Israeli occupation and reach peace,” he said.

In 2014, Abbas’s Fatah party joined forces with Hamas in forming a unity government. This was the first time both Palestinian groups came together since 2007, when Fatah took control of parts of Judea and Samaria (West Bank) and Hamas took over the Gaza Strip following a deadly and violent conflict. Continuous political disagreements between Fatah and Hamas eventually led to the collapse of the unity government in June 2015.

Regarding the peace process with Israel, Abbas called on Russia to take on a greater leadership role in negotiations, based on what he says is Moscow’s success in brokering the Iran nuclear deal and its involvement in Syria. Russia’s “new proactive dimension in the Middle East” will “restore peace and stability” to the Palestinians, Abbas claimed. “From here we wish to see this dynamic in the Russian foreign policy extended to the peace process between the Israelis and us,” he said.

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Abbas criticized Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whom he is convinced does not intend to form an independent Palestinian state. “Policies and practices of the government of Israel and the dramatic facts on the ground due to the ongoing confiscation of our land, building of more settlements and the demolition of Palestinian houses, leave no doubts about Netanyahu’s commitment to destroy the two-state solution,” he said.

The Palestinian president said he is “always ready to meet Mr. Netanyahu in order to engage in serious and meaningful negotiations that will lead to the end of the occupation and to a lasting peace that will ensure freedom for our people and state.” Earlier in April, following similar comments made by the Palestinian leader in an interview with Israel’s Channel 2, Netanyahu said he was willing to meet with Abbas “any day” and issued a standing invitation. Abbas has yet to take up Netanyahu on his offer.

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