RAMALLAH, West Bank (AP) – Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Wednesday said he would not resume peace talks until Israel reaches a truce in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.
The declaration complicated the latest mission by visiting U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who was trying to get the sizes to resume talks.
Israel has been battling Hamas militants in Gaza, killing more than 120 Palestinians in fighting over the past week. It’s unclear whether Israel is prepared to reach a formal truce with the group.
Abbas suspended U.S.-backed peace talks earlier this week to protest Israel’s crackdown in Gaza, and Rice has been trying to get the sides to resume negotiations during her current visit.
“The negotiations must be started, but after the truce,” Abbas said. “Once the truce is achieved the road will be open for negotiations.” He said Rice told him she would send an envoy to Egypt, which often mediates between Israel and Hamas. “There are real efforts being exerted by Egypt for the truce,” Abbas said.
Although Abbas did not mention Hamas by name, his aides said the Islamic group must clearly be part of a deal.
Hamas seized control of Gaza from Abbas’ forces last year, and he wields little influence in the area.
The aides said Abbas has proposed a package in which Hamas halts its relentless rocket barrages on southern Israel if Israel ends its attacks on Palestinian militants and Egypt reopens its border with Gaza.
Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev declined to discuss the parameters of any possible deal but suggested Israel could be open to a cease-fire. “If they were not shooting at our civilian population,we would not have to respond,” he said.
During the recent fighting, Hamas fired rockets deeper into Israel than ever before. Israeli officials fear that Hamas will use the lull of a cease-fire to rearm.