GAZA CITY: Hamas on Tuesday warned Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas not to relaunch direct peace talks with Israel, which it said "would only serve the Zionist occupation."
"We warn (Abbas) of the consequences of returning to negotiations, either with Arab cover or under pressure from America, because this will deepen the divide and put our cause on the the brink of collapse," senior Hamas leader Salah Al-Bardawil said in a statement.
Abbas was to meet with Arab League ministers on Thursday to discuss whether to bow to months of US pressure to relaunch face-to-face talks with Israel last suspended after the December 2008 outbreak of the Gaza war.
He has been engaged in US-mediated indirect talks with Israel since May but has repeatedly said he will not upgrade the negotiations without a freeze on Jewish settlements and a clear reference for the talks.
Hamas, an Islamist movement committed to the destruction of Israel, has opposed peace talks since they began in the early 1990s and has long accused Abbas’s secular Fatah movement of giving in to Israeli demands.
"Abbas’s talk of a clearly defined reference as a condition for restarting direct talks with the enemy confirms that Fatah has committed a huge error by negotiating for the last 20 years without one," Bardawil said.
It "bears responsibility for everything that has happened in the Palestinian territories, the holy sites and the cause during this period of negotiations and concessions," he added.
The United States and the European Union have pressed Abbas to go into direct talks, while Fatah has urged him to stick to his demand that there first be progress on the issues of borders and security in the indirect negotiations.