(Reuters) – Israel on Thursday suspended U.S.-sponsored peace talks with the Palestinians in response to President Mahmoud Abbas’s unexpected unity pact with the rival Islamist Hamas group.

The negotiations had appeared to be heading nowhere even before Wednesday’s reconciliation agreement between the Palestinian groups plunged them deeper into crisis. The United States had been struggling to extend the talks beyond an original April 29 deadline for a peace accord.

“The government of Israel will not hold negotiations with a Palestinian government that is backed by Hamas, a terror organization that calls for Israel’s destruction,” an official statement said after a six-hour meeting.

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