Sat, Sep 23, 2006 - Page 1 News List

Abbas says government would recognize Israel


Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas told the UN General Assembly late on Thursday that any new Palestinian government will recognize Israel.

"I would like to reaffirm that any future Palestinian government will commit to all the agreements that the Palestine Liberation Organization and the Palestinian Authority have committed to," he said in a speech to the assembly.

He referred to letters exchanged by the late Palestinian and Israeli leaders, Yasser Arafat and Yitzhak Rabin, in 1993, which contained mutual recognition statements.

Abbas, who has been negotiating with the Hamas group over a national unity government, also said: "Any future government will commit to imposing security and order, to ending the phenomena of multiple militias, indiscipline and chaos and to the rule of law."

Recognition of Israel and renunciation of violence have been among key conditions set by the international community -- led by the diplomatic Quartet on the Middle East -- to assist any Hamas-led government in the Palestinian territories.

Hamas currently rejects both conditions. Hamas, which won landmark elections in January, and Fatah, the party led by Abbas, have agreed to set up a unity government, based on a national reconciliation document drawn up in June which implicitly recognizes Israel.

Hamas leaders say, however, the accord does not include recognition of Israel and Abbas froze negotiations with the rival group before leaving for the UN General Assembly where the Middle East peace process has come under a renewed spotlight.

In reaction to Abbas' announcement, an aide to Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniya said that the next Palestinian government would not recognize Israel but was instead prepared to back a 10-year truce with the Jewish state.

Israel promptly rejected the truce suggestion and demanded that the Palestinian government recognize the Jewish state.

"This does not interest us," government spokesman Avi Pazner said.

The Quartet has insisted that any Palestinian government must recognize Israel, renounce violence and stick to past accords.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice also confirmed that she would visit the Middle East "fairly soon" as part of accelerated efforts to revive the stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

In his speech, Abbas warned against leaving the Middle East conflict to fester. He said Israel's construction of a security barrier in the West Bank, colonization and military raids help "despair and frustration thrive."

Abbas finished his speech by quoting a phrase uttered by Arafat when he spoke to the UN General Assembly in 1974, with a pistol holster around his waist and an olive branch in his hand: "Do not let the olive branch fall from my hand, do not let the olive branch fall from my hand."

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