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Spotlight on Middle East peace deal

01 December 2010, 21:05

Gaza - Senior Hamas leader Ismail Haniya said on Wednesday that the Islamist group would accept a peace deal with Israel if the Palestinian people approved it in a referendum.

The statement appeared to signal a shift in the group's long-standing policy of refusing to accept either Israel's legitimacy or any peace treaty negotiated by Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas.

Hamas "will respect the results of a referendum even if the results conflict with Hamas's positions," Haniya said at a rare media conference with foreign journalists.

"We accept a Palestinian state with full sovereignty on the land occupied in 1967 with Jerusalem as its capital and a solution to the issue of refugees," he added.

Hamas has frequently derided negotiations with Israel as a waste of time and Haniya said he remained unconvinced that peace talks would result in an agreement.

"There won't be a solution with two states on the land ... Israel wants the land, peace and security with us and this is something impossible."

Hamas won parliamentary elections in 2006, defeating Abbas's Fatah party. Long-standing tensions between the rivals boiled over in June 2007, when the Islamist group's forces routed Fatah and seized control of Gaza.

All attempts at reconciliation between the two sides, most of them mediated by Egypt, have failed. Fatah and Hamas have accused each other of undermining trust by persecuting political rivals in the territory under its control.

Abbas restarted direct talks with Israel in September with the aim of reaching a peace agreement within a year.

But negotiations broke down three weeks later after Israel refused to renew a 10-month moratorium on settlement construction in the West Bank that expired on September 26.

Hamas has frequently criticised Abbas for agreeing to negotiations with Israel.



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