WASHINGTON – US President Barack Obama plans to convene a trilateral meeting between himself, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the White House announced late Saturday night.
But Hamas' prime minister in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh, said Abbas had no right to negotiate in the name of the Palestinian people and that they would not be obligated by any agreements made at the summit.
The meeting has been scheduled for this Tuesday in New York, and the sides are expected to discuss the renewal of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.
Netanyau and Obama during previous meeting (Photo: Reuters)
Obama is scheduled to be in New York for the UN General Assembly. Prior to the trilateral summit, he plans to meet with each leader separately.
"It is another sign of the President's deep commitment to comprehensive peace that he wants to personally engage at this juncture, as we continue our efforts to encourage all sides to take responsibility for peace and to create a positive context for the resumption of negotiations," said Obama's envoy to the Middle East, George Mitchell.
Mitchell was in Israel but left before the High Holidays, leaving the issues at hand unresolved. Among these issues is Netanyahu's refusal to completely block construction of homes in the West Bank.
The White House announcement follows a tense week, during which each of the sides accused the other for the stalemate in talks. Abbas has refused to participate in a trilateral summit until a freeze of all construction in settlements is imposed, but it appears that US pressure has influenced his decision.
Head of the National Information Directorate, Nir Hefetz, said in a statement that Netanyahu, on his part, had accepted the invitation with enthusiasm and that he would leave for New York a day earlier than planned.
An official in Jerusalem said the meeting was intended for the renewal of talks, but that the sides would not carry out negotiations during the meeting itself.
"During the meeting no negotiations will take place, but rather the voicing of possibilities such negotiations hold," he said.
Hamas' prime minister made an Eid el-Fitr sermon Sunday, in which he rejected all attempts at renewing the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians, as well as the Palestinian Authority's right to represent the latter at negotiations.
"Neither the PLO nor anyone else can negotiate issues like Jerusalem, the borders, or the refugees in the name of the Palestinians," Haniyeh said.
He added that any agreements signed during the renewed talks would not obligate the Palestinians, and that "no concession will be honored". Haniyeh also called the negotiations "useless" and said there was no difference between Obama and his predecessor, George Bush.
Roni Sofer and AP contributed to this report