Several hours after the Palestinians announced that indirect peace negotiations with Israel have officially begun, Hamas called the talks "the most dangerous phase in the contacts between Israel and the Palestinians."
Hamas parliamentarian Ahmed Baher said Sunday afternoon that the Palestinian negotiators do not represent anyone but themselves, adding that the talks were merely an excuse to "allow Israel to confiscate more lands, build more settlements and Judaize Jerusalem."
Baher said the PLO Executive Committee, which approved the resumption of negotiations with Israel on Saturday, was an illegitimate body. The senior Hamas figure called Israeli construction in east Jerusalem an attempt to provoke the Palestinians, the Americans and the entire world.
"The Palestinian negotiating team lacks legitimacy," he said. "Our nation has been a part of both direct and indirect negotiations over the past few years, and they only led to false promises, lies and more settlements," he said.
Earlier Sunday, following another meeting between Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and special US envoy George Mitchell, chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said all of the permanent agreement issues would be put on the negotiation table.
He said the talks would be renewed from the point they left off in 2008 during the Olmert government, and stressed that the parties will move on to direct talks only in the case of a settlement construction freeze.