Abbas says settlements main obstacle to peace

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CAIRO: Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said on Monday that continued Israeli settlement expansion in the occupied West Bank was the biggest obstacle to peace.

“We consider [the building of] settlements the main obstacle to progress on any of the issues being negotiated, because we feel that settlements are eating Palestinian land bit by bit, Abbas said after Cairo talks with President Hosni Mubarak.

The talks came amid efforts by Cairo to broker a truce deal in and around Gaza, Egyptian state media reported.

Israel last week announced plans to build 884 more houses in occupied and annexed east Jerusalem, in a move that enraged the Palestinians who have demanded it as the capital of their promised state.

The Cairo talks also focused on efforts to reconcile Abbas’s leadership with Hamas, which controls Gaza, the official MENA news agency said on Sunday.

However, Abbas ruled out talks with Damascus-based Hamas political supremo Khaled Meshaal, saying the problem in Gaza was not a personal one between the two men.

Last week, the Palestinian leader called for dialogue with Hamas, which ousted his loyalists from Gaza last June, breaking with his previous policy of rejecting any opening until the Islamists cede control of the territory. -AFP

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