ALMATY, Kazakhstan, AP Israel will hold talks with the Palestinian president soon, Israeli Vice Premier Shimon Peres said Friday.
Peres said President Mahmoud Abbas, a moderate, was a viable negotiating partner who was legitimately elected by his people.
He spoke on the eve of an international conference in Kazakhstan to discuss issues of mutual concern, including security. A delegation from the Palestinian Authority was attending.
“In a very short while, we shall start to talk with him,” Peres said in an interview with foreign media.
Abbas is locked in a power struggle with the Islamic group Hamas, which defeated his Fatah party in legislative elections in January. The dispute has caused factional fighting.
Hamas, whose charter calls for Israel’s destruction, has refused to heed calls by Western donor nations to renounce violence and recognize Israel, despite growing hardship.
“Foreign support won’t come to a party which opposes peace, which doesn’t recognize Israel,” Peres said.
Visiting France this week, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Israel would set its borders with the Palestinians unilaterally if peace talks stay stalled.
Abbas has endorsed the plan as a way to restart peace talks and lift the crippling international sanctions that have left his government unable to pay salaries that sustain one-third of the Palestinian population.