State: Palestinian, Hamas truce could 'seriously' complicate peace talks

The State Department said Wednesday that a reconciliation agreement between the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) and Hamas announced Wednesday threatens to disrupt peace talks between Israel and the PLO.

"This could seriously complicate our efforts … and the efforts between the parties to extend the negotiations," State spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters.

ADVERTISEMENT
Psaki said the United States is "disappointed" in today's announcement by the PLO, and said Secretary of State John Kerry conveyed that message to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a phone call Wednesday. She said the same message has also been conveyed to the Palestinians.

Peace negotiations between the Palestinians and Israel have been stalled after a series of recent moves by both sides. Kerry had sought to strike a final status agreement by April 29 after he kick-started talks between the two sides last July.

But in light of today's announcement, State says progress depends on the Palestinians. "I think the ball, at this point, is in the Palestinians' court to answer questions to whether this reconciliation" meets the United States' long-standing principles, Psaki said.

Psaki said Hamas, the militant group based in the Gaza Strip and regarded as a terrorist group by Israel, must recognize Israel’s existence, commit to non-violence and accept previous agreements in order for negotiations to be extended.

Asked how a reconciliation agreement with Hamas would affect U.S. assistance to the PLO, based in the West Bank, Psaki was not specific, but did say, "Obviously there would be implications."

State's assessment of the talks is different from that of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who said in Ramallah on Wednesday that a unity government with Hamas would not threaten or contradict peace talks with Israel.

Israel, however, responded calling off a session of diplomatic talks between negotiators to try to extend the talks.

The PLO-Hamas deal comes seven years after Hamas broke away from the Palestinian government in the West Bank.

Just before the announcement Wednesday, Netanyahu questioned Abbas' intentions.

"Does he want peace with Hamas, or peace with Israel?" Netanyahu asked, according to The New York Times. "You can have one but not the other. I hope he chooses peace. So far he hasn’t done so."