GAZA CITY (AFP) – Senior Hamas leader and former Palestinian prime minister Ismail Haniya has called on Arab countries to boycott a US-sponsored Middle East peace meeting due to be held next month.
“We call on our Arab brothers, particularly the Saudi Arabian kingdom and Egypt, to reconsider any decision to participate in this conference,” he said in an interview published on Saturday in Palestine magazine, which is close to the Islamist group.
“We do not put the slightest hope in this conference,” he added, speaking out against “any normalisation” of relations with Israel.
Hamas is considered a terrorist organisation by the United States, European Union and Israel because it refuses to renounce violence, recognise the Jewish state and respect past interim peace deals.
Haniya was speaking as US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice prepares to visit the region next week to add her weight to preparations for the meeting, for which Washington has not yet issued invitations or settled on a precise date or venue.
On Wednesday, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas met for the fourth time in less than two months and told aides to start work on a joint document to serve as a basis for peace talks.
Hamas seized power in the Gaza Strip in mid-June, ousting forces loyal to Abbas, who sacked Haniya as head of a national unity government and appointed a new cabinet.
As a result, the Palestinian territories are effectively divided, as Fatah retains its power base in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.