PMO Criticizes PA, Iran Meeting

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JERUSALEM, Israel - A meeting between Palestinian Authority (PA) senior negotiator Saeb Erekat and Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki late last week didn't sit well with Israeli officials.

"The Palestinian side has refused to allow the resumption of peace talks by placing preconditions on such a resumption," said Mark Regev, spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.

"It appears, however, that they have no qualms and place no preconditions upon dialogue with the most extreme and violent enemies of peace," he said.

Erekat and Mottaki met in the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh last week on the sidelines of a conference of non-aligned nations.

The two men discussed "internal Palestinian" issues, according to the French news agency AFP.

"They discussed the internal Palestinian situation and the need for successful negotiations between Hamas and Fatah," one senior PA official told AFP.

"[They also discussed] the need for a balance between Fatah and Hamas, the need for support of dialogue [between them]...regional conditions and how to strike a balance in support of Fatah and Hamas," he said, noting it was the first meeting with Iran since the PA's establishment in 1994.

Erekat claimed the significance of the meeting was overblown, saying he'd met with Mottaki recently in Davos and Riyadh.

"After all, it's not the first time. It's not something new," Erekat told Israel Radio.

"We saw each other, it was just a regular meeting," Erekat said, dismissing the idea that it represented "normalization between Fatah and Iran."

Iran has provided funding, weaponry and training to Hamas and Islamic Jihad for years, much as it has to the Lebanese-based Hezbollah terror group.

A senior Fatah official told Ynet that the meeting was aimed at dissuading Iran from interfering in Egyptian-mediated reconciliation talks between Fatah and Hamas.

"We have experienced negative conduct on Iran's part in everything related to the situation in the Gaza Strip and the internal Palestinian conflict, and as long as there's no change in this position, the PA has no intention of discussing upgrading its ties with Iran, despite the desire to maintain good relations with all countries in the region," the Fatah official said.

Sources: The Jerusalem Post, Ynet news

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