Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas met Hamas officials on Friday for the first time since the Islamist movement seized Gaza Strip in June, but ruled out formal reconciliation talks until Hamas cedes the territory.
According to Reuters, Abbas said he met for unofficial talks Hamas lawmaker Hussein Abu Kwaik and a Hamas-backed former government minister, Naser el-Deen al-Shaer, at his presidential compound in the West Bank city of Ramallah. Hamas officials said Abbas initiated the meeting by inviting the officials for Friday prayers.
"I met with Hamas officials and told them there would be no dialogue with Hamas until they reverse their coup," Abbas told Reuters in Ramallah following after the meeting. The Palestinian leader refused to hold talks with Hamas since the latter routed his forces in Gaza Strip during violent clashes in June.
Abbas spokesman Nabil Abu Rdainah said two other Hamas members were also present at the meeting, which was not official. All four are based in the West Bank. Earlier this week, Abu Kwaik criticized comments by Gaza-based Hamas leader Nizar Rayyan, who had called for using force to seize control of the West Bank.
Hamas official Sami Abu Zuhri told Reuters in Gaza Abbas had invited the group to his compound for the prayers. "The prayers in the Muqata came after an invitation by Abbas to some Islamist figures, including some Hamas officials. It was not linked to any kind of dialogue between Hamas and Fatah."