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Hamas: We won't stand in way of PA-Israel deal

Ha'aretz, Barak Ravid and Avi Issacharoff

Date: 22.07.2009

Hamas political bureau chief Khaled Meshal told a Russian diplomat a few days ago that his group would not stand in the way of a peace deal brokered between Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Israel. Meshal reportedly told Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Saltanov in Damascus that if Abbas comes to an agreement on a final settlement of the conflict with Israel, and if the agreement is approved in a Palestinian referendum, Hamas would not try to derail such an accord.

After the talks, Saltanov traveled to Israel, where he had two days of meetings with senior Israeli officials. Saltanov told his Israeli hosts that Meshal's comments were positive in nature and should be given the attention they deserve. Israel, for its part, has been unhappy about Russian contacts with high-ranking Hamas officials in the Syrian capital, and Israeli officials have expressed skepticism about Meshal's reported comments.

At Sunday's cabinet meeting, Shin Bet security service chief Yuval Diskin said the more conciliatory tone which has been reflected recently in statements by senior Hamas officials does not reflect a real shift in the organization's ideological principles.

Several weeks ago, in a speech in Damascus, Meshal said Hamas would accept the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel's pre-Six-Day War 1967 lines, but he did not say that Hamas would recognize Israel.

He also conditioned acceptance of the 1967 borders upon provisions including Jerusalem as the Palestinian capital and the return of all Palestinian refugees to their homes within Israel, conditions that Israel has refused.