Middle East

Israel scraps Palestinian peace meet after unity deal

Palestinian students from Hebron University supporting the Hamas movement walk on a giant Israeli flag as they prepare the student body elections on April 23, 2014, in the West Bank town of Hebron. (AFP PHOTO / HAZEM BADER)

JERUSALEM: Israel cancelled a peace meeting with the Palestinians it said was scheduled for Wednesday after the PLO and Hamas pledged to form a joint government, an aide to the premier said.

"Israel cancelled the negotiations meeting that was supposed to take place this evening (Wednesday)," Ofir Gendelman, a spokesman for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said on his official Twitter feed.

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat told AFP, however, that no meeting with the Israelis had been planned for Wednesday.

"Netanyahu stopped the negotiations a long time ago," Erakat said. "He chose the settlements instead of the peace. He is demolishing the peace process."

He said that the Palestinians would meet bilaterally with US peace envoy Martin Indyk in Ramallah on Thursday.

Netanyahu restated earlier comments that Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas -- familiarly known as Abu Mazen -- had abandoned the path of peace by seeking partnership with the militant Islamist Hamas.

"This evening... Abu Mazen chose Hamas, not peace," a statement from Netanyahu's office quoted him as saying.

"Whoever chooses Hamas does not want peace."

At a news conference earlier in the Gaza Strip, Hamas and Abbas's Palestine Liberation Organisation announced a deal for a coalition government and to end seven years of separate Palestinian administrations in the West Bank and Gaza.





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