RAMALLAH, West Bank (AP) — Visiting German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer said yesterday that Palestinian presidential elections and an end to violence could lead to renewed Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, but leaders of the Islamic group Hamas dismissed the possibility of a truce.
Fischer’s visit was part of an intense flurry of diplomacy aimed at reinvigorating long-stalled peace efforts after Yasser Arafat’s death last month. U.S. and European mediators have expressed rare optimism at ending more than four years of Israeli-Palestinian fighting. Elections to replace Arafat are set for Jan. 9.
“I think the present situation with the coming election is a great opportunity — if there is responsible behavior by all parties on the ground and by the international community — to move toward a resumption of the peace talks which will lead to two states living peacefully side by side,” said Fischer, who met with Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia and interim Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas.
But in Gaza yesterday, Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar said a truce was not on any agenda.
“Not a single word was said about a truce,” Zahar said. “We are defending ourselves and our people, pushing the Israelis out of our land.”
In Lebanon, Moussa Abu Marzouk, deputy head of Hamas’s political bureau, expressed hope the United States and European Union would be “fairer” in mediating the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, but he said his group would continue its resistance even if a Palestinian state was established.
Abu Marzouk told The Associated Press a Palestinian state was a right “stipulated by all international accords” but was not a reason for Hamas to stop its resistance.
“There are other rights for the Palestinian people that cannot be forgotten or be conceded,” Abu Marzouk said without elaborating.