DAMASCUS // Hamas and eight other Damascus-based Palestinian groups urged the Palestinian Authority not to resume direct talks with Israel. The groups said in a statement that direct talks would hurt the Palestinian cause "in light of Israel's continuing policy of aggression, settlements building and blockade of Gaza Strip."
They were joined by the Palestinian Democratic Union, a small West Bank-based faction, which urged Arab foreign ministers not to give President Mahmoud Abbas the green light to engage in direct negotiations until there is progress in the current indirect talks. Arab foreign ministers are set to meet on Thursday to debate giving their backing to Mr Abbas for the higher level talks with Israel. On Monday, an internal Palestinian document obtained by The Associated Press noted that President Barack Obama's envoy is pressing the Palestinians to restart direct peace negotiations. Mr Abbas has said he won't resume talks that broke off in December 2008 unless Israel accepts the idea of a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem, with some alterations, and freezes all settlement building there. Israel has refused to be pinned down on a framework for negotiations, insisting on direct talks without conditions. * Associated Press