Turkish Prime Minister: Abbas call for early Palestinian vote 'very negative'

By Reuters


Kislev 28, 5767

A call by Palestinian Chairman Mahmoud Abbas for early elections was a "very negative" move so soon after the last Palestinian elections, Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said on Monday.

The appeal for new elections came as Abbas and Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, whose Hamas movement defeated Abbas's once-dominant Fatah in parliamentary elections held last January, "had begun to work together in trying to take positive steps," Erdogan said.

The call for early elections "in such a short period of time did not fit well with the current situation, and it is very negative in that sense," the Turkish leader said during a visit to UN headquarters.

He said the biggest problem with the January elections was that the will of the Palestinian people had not been respected after the victory by Hamas, which refuses to renounce violence or recognize Israel's right to exist.

His comment was an apparent slap at Israel and Western powers led by the United States, which have cut off all direct aid to the Palestinian government.

"If by not respecting the will of the Palestinian people, people think that they can move forward, I don't think that that would be the right way to move forward," he said.

The aid cutoff has led to a virtual collapse of the Palestinian economy and the Palestinian Authority due to an inability to collect taxes or pay the salaries of civil servants including security personnel.

Erdogan also criticized supporters of the Palestinians for providing too little economic help after direct aid was cut off.

Internal Palestinian tensions are at their highest in a decade after the collapse of months of talks between the Hamas Islamist movement and Fatah on forging a government of national unity.

Abbas, who wants a negotiated peace settlement with Israel, said on Saturday that parliamentary and presidential polls should be held at the earliest opportunity.

But Abbas appeared to leave the door open to the ruling Hamas by saying efforts should be renewed to form a unity government that could lead to a lifting of Western sanctions.

Hamas accused Abbas of launching a coup and said the chairman had no authority to call early elections.