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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Israel Unfazed by Mecca Accords

JERUSALEM -- Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert reserved judgment on Sunday on a Palestinian unity deal and a senior Israeli official said a U.S.-brokered summit with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas would be held as planned.

"Israel neither rejects nor accepts the agreements," Olmert said about a power-sharing pact signed by Hamas and Fatah, an accord that failed to meet a core demand by the United States and other Middle East peace mediators to recognize Israel.

"At this stage, we, like the international community are learning what was exactly accomplished and what was said," he said in broadcast remarks at the weekly Cabinet meeting.

A senior Israeli official said Olmert's Feb. 19 summit with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah and U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice would go ahead as scheduled.

Islamist Hamas and Fatah agreed in Mecca on Thursday to end factional warfare that has killed scores of Palestinians and to form a unity government, hoping the move would persuade Western powers to restore direct aid to the Palestinian Authority.

Russia welcomed the news of the agreement Friday, and called for the lifting of the Western blockade on the Palestinian territories.

"We think the future Palestinian national government ... will be an important factor in the process of reviving Israeli-Palestinian talks," the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

"We also believe the implementation of Mecca agreements should be combined with lifting a blockade of the Palestinian territories which has inflicted suffering and hardship on the people."

Olmert reiterated that Israel demanded that any new Palestinian government accept the three conditions set by the so-called Quartet of Middle East peace mediators for ending the crippling economic sanctions imposed after Hamas came to power.

The group, comprising the United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations, wants Hamas, which defeated Fatah in an election last year, to recognize Israel, renounce violence and accept existing interim peace accords.

The Mecca agreement made no explicit commitment to recognize Israel. A letter from Abbas reappointing Hamas' Ismail Haniyeh as prime minister contained a hazy call to the movement to "abide by the interests of the Palestinian people" and "respect" past agreements and international law.

A political adviser to Haniyeh said Saturday that the new government, expected to be unveiled in the coming days, would not recognize the Jewish state.