Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas offered an unexpected olive branch to Hamas yesterday, reports the New York Times. Abbas, in control of only the West Bank since the Islamic militant group seized Gaza last year, said it was time for national unity talks aimed at forming a new government. The move could signal the total breakdown of faltering peace talks with Israel.
Israel remains opposed to direct talks with Hamas and has threatened to cut off talks with Abbas if he makes amends with the group. In his call for unity, Abbas appeared to have dropped his demand for Hamas to give up control of Gaza. A spokesman for Hamas, which has gained popularity against Abbas' Fatah party over the last year, welcomed the leader's change in tone.