AL QUDS, Sept 9: Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said on Friday he welcomed the first public talks between Israel and Pakistan last week, a step powerful Palestinian militant groups greeted with hostility. The meeting between Israeli and Pakistani foreign ministers in Turkey signalled a diplomatic breakthrough between Israel and a major Muslim state. It was spurred by Israel’s pullout from occupied Gaza, land Palestinians want as part of a future state.

Abbas told Israeli Arab newspaper Kul al-Arab that Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf informed him of the talks beforehand and assured him that full diplomatic relations between Pakistan and Israel would await the formation of a Palestinian state.

“I could not say ‘no’, and I said to him: ‘As long as the issue will serve the Palestinian cause, then let it be,’” Abbas, breaking a public silence on the talks, told the newspaper.

A spokesman for Hamas, a powerful Palestinian militant group sworn to Israel’s destruction, said Abbas’s support for the talks hindered the Palestinian national cause.

“This is a very dangerous act to encourage other countries to normalise ties with the occupation,” said Sami Abu Zuhri. “It represents serious harm to the Palestinian cause and misleads public opinion, since occupation remains on our land.”

Israel evacuated all 8,500 settlers from Gaza and is to have all military forces out by next week.

But it continues to expand Jewish enclaves in the West Bank where 245,000 settlers live, stripping Palestinians of land at the heart of their aspirations to a viable state.

Militant groups also condemned Pakistani leaders over the dialogue with the Jewish state and staged protest rallies.

Palestinian Deputy Prime Minister Nabil Shaath said initially that it was premature for Pakistan, a staunch backer of Palestinians, to offer diplomatic “gifts” to Israel.

Influential Islamist factions in Pakistan denounced the talks as well.

Israel has full diplomatic ties with four major Islamic countries — Egypt, Jordan, Turkey and Mauritania — and has sought to establish links with others.

But Muslim states have generally demanded Israel first pull out of all territory it occupied in the 1967 Middle East war.—Reuters

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