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Middle East
Hamas dismisses Annapolis talks
Move comes as US pushes for Middle East solution before end of Bush's presidency.
Last Modified: 22 Nov 2007 02:43 GMT
Hamas's Mahmoud al-Zahar said the Annapolis
meeting "doesn't scare us" [Reuters]
Amid a flurry of diplomatic activity in the run-up to the US-hosted Middle East talks next week, Palestinian group Hamas has dismissed the conference as a failure.
 
Hamas, which has not been invited to the Annapolis talks, said Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, had no right to negotiate on behalf of all Palestinians.
And Mahmoud al-Zahar, the former Palestinian foreign minister from Hamas, told Al Jazeera that nothing positive would come from the talks.
He questioned the sincerity of the US, saying that after leaving aside the Middle East conflict for seven years, the Bush administration was now trying to "make an impression that something can be squeezed by such a meeting ... in the last moment".
 
Mushir al-Masri, a Hamas MP, said the Palestinian delegation to Annapolis "are not taking the national consensus into account, are acting without a people's mandate and do not have any legitimacy".
 
Another Hamas MP, Salah al-Bardawil, said Abbas had no right to negotiate with or make concessions to the Israelis without Hamas backing.
 
"Does Abu Mazen [Abbas] have the right to give concessions? No, as those demanded by Israel are immense, like renouncing the return of refugees or settlements.
 
"To go to this conference while the Palestinians are divided and without a political national consensus will result in failure of the Palestinian team and a regression of our cause," he said.
 
Saudi and Syrian uncertainty
 
Hamas's dismissal of the talks comes as the US secretary of state said Washington would try to secure a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians before George Bush's term as president ends in January 2009.
 
Condoleezza Rice said that the two sides had pledged to work together for a two-state solution, but she warned that there was no guarantee of success.
 
Egypt is hosting Arab leaders on Friday
to devise policy for Annapolis [EPA]
The US has sent out 49 invites for the November 27 talks, including to Israel, Abbas, and other Arab leaders.
 
Egypt and Jordan have said they will attend but it is unclear if Saudi Arabia will and Syria seems unlikely to send a senior representative, if any.
 
"They [Syria] have told many foreign ministers... that they will not go if the Golan Heights issue is not on the agenda of the conference," Ziad Haider, a Syrian journalist, told Al Jazeera.
 
The Golan Heights is a Syrian territory occupied by Israel.
 
The Arab League is to meet in Cairo on Friday to devise policy for the Annapolis summit.
 
Smoke screen
 
Khaled Meshaal, the Hamas political chief exiled in Damascus, said the Annapolis conference was called by George Bush, the US president, to mask plans of aggression in the region.
 
"President Bush launched the road map five years ago in preparation of the Iraq invasion," Meshaal said in an interview with the BBC, referring to an international peace blueprint launched in 2003 but has been largely dormant.
 
"And today he wants to make peace in Palestine in preparation to a hit against Iran," Meshaal said. "This is an American game. The Palestinians and the Arab peoples are aware of it and know that it is not serious."
 
He added that holding a conference devoid of meaning "will explode the region by provoking popular anger".
 
Marwan Bishara, Al Jazeera's senior political analyst, said that with the US involved in Iraq, Afghanistan and the so-called war on terror, there was a political dimension to the talking up of the Annapolis conference.
 
"So-called processing peace in the Middle East has become almost necessary language, that the Bush administration uses constantly today, in order to show that there is another face for the Bush war in the Middle East," he said. "That is one involving diplomacy."
 
Isolating Hamas
 
Hamas seized power in the Gaza Strip in June after routing forces loyal to Abbas and his Fatah party, dividing the Palestinians into two separate entities, with Abbas controlling the occupied West Bank and Hamas the Gaza Strip.
 

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Bush first called for the meeting in July, just weeks after the Hamas Gaza takeover, was seen as part of efforts by Israel and the West to isolate Hamas.
 
The International Crisis Group, a Brussels-based think-tank, said "isolating Hamas appears to be a key motivation behind the Annapolis process".
 
Hamas's al-Zahar, said the Annapolis meeting "doesn't scare us" and the Palestinian people would not accept results that are "beyond the national interests".
 
He pointed out that the Palestinian people had waited and hoped that the Oslo accords, which Hamas did not support, would produce tangible results, but that ended in "frustration".
 
Hamas, which overwhelmingly won democratic parliamentary elections in the Palestinian territories in January 2006, is considered a terrorist group by Israel, the EU and the US because it refuses to renounce violence, recognise Israel and agree to abide by past peace deals.
 
Meanwhile, Israel on Wednesday authorised the delivery from Russia of 25 armoured personnel carriers and 1,000 rifles to Abbas's security forces.
 
The move is an attempt to shore up support for the Palestinian president ahead of Annapolis and was approved despite objections from officials in Israel's army and internal security services.
Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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