The Hamas terrorist group which controls Gaza was quick to pour cold water on U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s announcement that peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority would resume.
"Hamas rejects Kerry's announcement of a return to talks and considers the Palestinian Authority's return to negotiations with the occupation to be at odds with the national consensus," Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri told AFP on Friday, after Kerry announced at a press conference in Amman that negotiators from both sides will be meeting in Washington next week.
Abu Zuhri said that PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, who heads Hamas’s longtime rival faction Fatah, had no legitimate right to negotiate on behalf of “the Palestinian people.”
Ihab al-Ghassin, spokesman for the Hamas government, also told AFP that "whoever negotiates on the part of the people who is not chosen by them, represents only himself. The Palestinian people will not accept this."
Earlier, Abbas’s office hailed the Chairman’s meetings with Kerry on Friday, saying they achieved "progress" towards resuming peace talks with Israel.
"Abbas's meeting with Kerry in his headquarters in Ramallah on Friday evening achieved progress, and will facilitate an agreement on the basis of a resumption of talks," Abbas’s spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeina said in a statement quoted by AFP.
But he stressed there were still "specific details that need to be resolved," without saying what these were.
"Kerry will send an invitation to [chief negotiator Saeb] Erekat and a representative of the Israeli side to meet him in Washington for initial talks in the next few days," he added.
According to Kerry’s announcement in Amman, Erekat and Israeli negotiator Justice Minister Tzipi Livni would meet him in Washington "to begin initial talks within the next week or so."
Kerry had spent four hours earlier on the phone talking to both sides before making the decision to dash to Ramallah to meet Abbas for the third time this week.
The whirlwind diplomacy came after the PA leadership rejected Kerry's proposals for a framework to guide the relaunch of peace talks with the Israelis stalled for nearly three years.
Meanwhile, a PA leader told the Associated Press on Friday that Kerry’s plan to get Israel and the PA talking again involves getting Israel to release hundreds of terrorist prisoners.
Ahmed Majdalani said that Kerry has assured PA leaders that Israel would gradually free some 350 terrorists in the coming months. The prisoners would include some 100 men that were arrested over terrorist attacks carried out before the 1993 Oslo Accords. Israel has refused to free these terrorists in the past because many of them carried out some of the deadliest attacks against Israelis.
According to Majdalani, Kerry would endorse the pre-1967 borders as the starting point of negotiations. The plan does not include a freeze on Jewish construction in Judea and Samaria.
(Arutz Sheva’s North American Desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)