Hamas slams French initiative as Abbas’s ‘personal step’
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Hamas slams French initiative as Abbas’s ‘personal step’

Despite Arab League endorsement, Gaza group says next week’s summit is an attempt to ‘distract the Palestinian people’

Dov Lieber is The Times of Israel's Arab affairs correspondent.

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls (left) and Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah (right) meet in the West Bank city of Ramallah, May 24, 2016. (AFP/Abbas Momani)
French Prime Minister Manuel Valls (left) and Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah (right) meet in the West Bank city of Ramallah, May 24, 2016. (AFP/Abbas Momani)

Ahead of next week’s Middle East peace summit to be held in Paris and attended by foreign minsters of 20 countries, the Hamas terrorist group reaffirmed Monday its rejection of the initiative.

The group called the initiative a “personal step” by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, despite the fact that the Arab League passed a resolution on Friday adopting the French peace push.

“The French initiative is an attempt to distract the Palestinian people and circumvent their national rights, especially the right of return,” Hamas spokesperson Sami Abu Zuhri said in a statement, referring to the Palestinian demand that all refugees from the 1948 war in Israel — as well as their descendants, around five million people — be allowed to settle in Israel.

“Mahmoud Abbas’s response to this initiative is a personal step and does not have any national consensus,” the statement said.

On Friday, during a meeting in Cairo attended by Abbas, the Arab League passed a resolution backing “the French initiative and all Arab and international efforts” for peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

The French initiative involves a meeting of foreign ministers from a range of countries, including US Secretary of State John Kerry, on June 3, but without the presence of Israelis and the Palestinians.

An international conference would then be held in the autumn, with the Israelis and Palestinians in attendance. The goal is an eventual relaunch of negotiations that would lead to a Palestinian state.

While the Palestinian Authority has welcomed the summit, Hamas, as well as the Israeli government, has been firm in its rejection of the French initiative ever since it was first proposed.

Israel has called for direct negotiations with the Palestinians rather than international mediation in order to reach a final peace agreement.

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