Abbas calls for direct talks

On a visit to Oslo, Mr Abbas said negotiations to work a way out of the Middle East conflict should be called immediately and be based on international UN resolutions and signed agreements.

“I believe that to resolve the conflict, both sides should not be left alone with this imbalance of occupier and occupied,” he said.

He added that the quartet of the United States, European Union, Russia and the United Nations, could “play the role of the broker and arbitrator at the same time”.

Unexcited response

Israel has issued a cool response and said that the Hamas-led Palestinian government stood in the way of any talks. “Israel wants to restart negotiations with the Palestinians,” Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Mark Regev told AFP.

“We want to move forward with the Palestinian people and the framework for moving forward is the roadmap,” he said referring to an internationally drafted peace plan.

But Mr Regev said it was “unfortunate” that Israel could not proceed with talks because the radical Islamist group Hamas that forms the government, has vowed to destroy Israel and has refused negotiations with the Israelis.

Abbas tour

Mr Abbas said however, he was free to negotiate with the Israelis despite Hamas sweeping to power in the recent Palestinian elections.

“It is important for me to clarify that the Palestinian legislative election, which brought Hamas to power, is not an obstacle in front of negotiations,” he said.

“Negotiations are still the mandate of the PLO, which signed all previous agreements with Israel,” Mr Abbas said.

The Palestian leader, currently on a tour of Europe, urged the international community to “move fast” to secure a negotiated settlement to the conflict.

Mr Abbas is seeking to stop a unilateral solution being imposed by interim Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert.

Mr Olmert’s plans to dismantle smaller settlements in the West Bank and annex larger ones and Mr Abbas fears that would eliminate “any chance to establish a viable independent Palestinian state”.

Aid plea

Mr Abbas urged the international community to resume financial aid to the Palestinians, that was suspended when Hamas formed its government in March.

Norway responded by pledging US$20 million (A$26.89 million) in aid and would further explore ways of offering direct assistance to the office of the Palestinian Authority president.

The move is conditional on concessions of the Hamas-led government to recognise Israel and renounce its armed struggle.

However, Norway, unlike the United States and the European Union, did not formally suspended its aid as no aid was due to be sent after Hamas’ election.

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