August 5, 2010 - 12:00am

Islamic Hamas movement warned on Thursday Fatah party of going to direct negotiations with Israel after the latter declined holding a tripartite meeting to set terms of reference for the stalled peace process.

Salah al-Badawil, Gaza-based spokesman for Hamas, in a press release, demanded Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah party not to return to "absurd talks" with Israel, urging the West Bank- ruling movement to give the priority for achieving national unity and isolating Israel.

Fatah and Hamas factions have been fiercely divided since the Islamic movement grabbed hold of the Gaza Strip by force in 2007, leaving Abbas' Fatah party only in control of the West Bank.

Earlier on Thursday, chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat told Xinhua that Israel snubbed holding a three-way meeting that would comprise the United States, Israel and the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) to set terms of reference and timetable for direct talks.

But the official did not spell out the Palestinians' final stance toward the resumption of peace talks after the Israeli refusal to hold the meeting, requested by the Palestinians.

Abbas has been under American and international pressure to enter direct peace discussions with Israel after several rounds of indirect U.S.-led proximity talks that started in May.

However, the Palestinian leader said he will not jump to direct talks, which halted in 2008, unless Israel freezes settlement activities in the West Bank and East Jerusalem and set references and timetable for face-to-face negotiations.


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