The democratically elected Hamas government has called on Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries on Wednesday to stay away from a US-sponsored Middle East peace meeting expected in November.
Hamas said in a statement on Tuesday: ‘The Palestinian government warns that the autumn conference will be a new gateway to new concessions made by the participants or a gateway to normalisation (of ties with Israel).
‘We thus call on our Arab brothers not to venture into this obscure tunnel.
‘In particular, we call on Saudi Arabia not to participate in this conference.’
During its weekly session, the government called on the Arab states especially Saudi Arabia not to participate in this conference.
The Haniya government also discussed many important political developments, including ‘the Israeli aggression on Nablus, the ongoing assaults committed by the PNA security apparatuses on the Palestinian people and institutions in the West Bank’ as well as the international conference and the ‘news about secret negotiations’.
Premier Haniya announced during the meeting that he appointed ombudsmen in the cabinet to deal with all the injustices and to receive citizens’ complaints.
The government highlighted its adherence to the Palestinian people’s rights and constants particularly the Palestinian refugees’ right of return and occupied Jerusalem.
The government called on citizens to abide by the laws and rules and ‘not to participate in reinstating security disturbance’.
The government also underlined its ‘political openness internally and externally and its keenness on the national unity’.
Muhammad Nazzal, a member of Hamas Political Bureau, on Tuesday criticised the exaggerated wagering on the success of the next autumn conference in reaching a settlement between Palestinians and Israelis
He pointed out that the statements issued by Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni about her government’s refusal to allow the Palestinian refugees to return is an ‘early declaration on the failure of this meeting’.
Nazzal stated that the Israeli official’s statements prove that the Olmert government is not ready to give any political price for peace, confirming that the conference will produce only a general framework and America can never be relied upon to restore Palestinian rights.
The Hamas leader also criticised the statements of the Quartet envoy to the Middle East, Tony Blair, about the existence of disputes within Hamas.
Nazzal said: ‘Talking about conflicts within Hamas is not true, because Hamas is an institutional movement and any member is dealt with under the authority of the Hamas institutions, and Blair is delusional when he thinks that there are moderate and radical trends within Hamas.’
He underlined that PNA president Mahmud Abbas implements the American veto when he insists on refusing to open dialogue with Hamas, pointing out that there is an American veto banning Fatah from opening any dialogue with Hamas.
For his part, MP Mushir al-Masri, secretary-general of the Hamas-affiliated Change and Reform parliamentary bloc, criticised the meeting held on Monday between the Abbas and US president Bush on the sidelines of meetings held by the UN General Assembly in New York.
Al-Masri considered it an American attempt to exploit the remaining time to the international conference to impose the Israeli agenda on the participating countries.
In a press statement to the Quds Press, Masri said that the continuing controversy over giving a specific name to the conference whether it is an international or regional meeting or a meeting for the countries concerned with the peace process underlines the prior failure of such a meeting and the fact that it lacks a clear agenda or objective.
The secretary-general of the Hamas bloc warned Abbas against signing any agreement that waivers the Palestinian constants and rights, confirming that Hamas will never deal with any agreement against the Palestinian rights and constants and will practically reject it.
He also accused Abbas of working on implicating some of the Arab states in that failed meeting which will produce delusional peace.
Washington has not officially announced the date of the proposed Middle East peace meeting or venue of the meeting, but it is widely expected to take place in November.
The US said on Sunday that members of an Arab League follow-up committee, which includes oil powerhouse Saudi Arabia and Syria, would be invited.
The committee, which also includes Jordan, Egypt, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, is charged with convincing Israel to accept a Saudi-drafted peace initiative relaunched in March by the Arab League during a summit in Riyadh.
Saudi Arabia has said it has not yet decided whether to attend the meeting.
Syria has said it wants the proposed conference to have ‘clear agenda’.
Tensions between Israel and Syria have been running high since the Israeli military’s covert air strike deep inside Syrian territory on September 6.
Information Minister Mohsen Bilal said on Monday: ‘Syria will decide on whether to participate after it receives an invitation.’
But he stressed that the conference must be focused on ‘the imperatives for a just and comprehensive peace’ in the Middle East based on the creation of an independent Palestinian state, the right of return of Palestinian refugees, and the Golan’s return to Syria.
He warned: ‘The United States and Israel are very mistaken if they are trying with this meeting to bring about a normalisation (between Syria and Israel).’
The Syrian press has been debating the invitation.
The Tishrin newspaper, on Tuesday carried a 300-word editorial by Umar Jaftali entitled ‘Behind The News. . . . Is It Really an International Conference’.
The writer questions the use of holding the international peace conference called for by the US Administration ‘as long as the proposals, preludes and political positions, confirm that this conference will not deal with all the outstanding Middle East issues and that there is no previously agreed-upon timetable for peace on all tracks at the centre of its agenda.’
The writer added: ‘Someone might say: It is premature to judge the US position, which, shortly before the Quartet meeting, leaked within the UN circles news about the possibility of expanding the participation to include six Arab countries, including Syria.
‘The important question that remains, however, is: What is the purpose of a conference, which is receiving attention, as long as those who called for it are not likely to reconsider their negative policies toward the region and have already set the goal behind the conference; namely, offering part of the Palestinian solution, which includes only the West Bank, and ignoring all the other outstanding issues 40 years after the adoption of Resolution 242, which is supposed to be the basis for any international effort to end the Arab-Israeli conflict?’
The writer argued that the conference will fail if the purpose is to ‘offer partial solutions and extend the status quo for years to come.’
The Al-Thawrah newspaper carried a 300-word article by Ahmad Dawwa entitled ‘The Agenda and the Goals in Advance,’ in which the writer noted Arab warnings against the repercussions of ‘the lack of an agenda and clear goals for the regional conference called for by the Bush Administration.’
The writer said that ‘the Bush administration’s delay in settling this controversy by fulfilling the Arab demand for a specific agenda and clear goals for the autumn meeting leaves the door wide open for interpretations and increases the Arab fears.’
The writer added that ‘what the US newspapers publish on this meeting involves great risks, especially when they say that its success is contingent upon the parties concerned, especially the Arab parties, making essential concessions.’
Syria demands the return of the entire Golan Heights which Israel seized in the 1967 war and annexed in 1981.
Direct negotiations between the two countries broke down in January 2000.
It has come under international pressure over Lebanon, Iraq and the Arab-Israeli conflict.
But Syrian officials stressed that Damascus would ‘not give up on its support for the national resistance (against Israel) nor its strategic alliance with Iran’.
While dismissing US and British newspaper reports of alleged nuclear ties with North Korea, officials in Damascus have warned of a possible repeat of the scenario of claims made against Iraq before the 2003 invasion.