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'US softening opposition to Fatah-Hamas unity'
April 8, 2013 22:05
PA official says American resistance to unity faded; Abbas set to meet Mashaal amid reports that Fayyad planning to resign.
Khaled Mashaal and Mahmoud Abbas.

Mashaal with Abbas 311 R. (photo credit:Reuters)

The US appears to have softened its opposition to unity between Fatah and Hamas, a top Fatah official in the West Bank said Monday.

Azzam al-Ahmed, a member of the Fatah Central Committee and a senior adviser to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, said that US opposition to the unity idea was “less strong.”

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Ahmed’s comments came hours after Abbas met in Ramallah with US Secretary of State John Kerry to discuss American efforts to revive the stalled peace process with Israel.

Ahmed said that Abbas would meet with Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal in Doha, Qatar, later this week to discuss the formation of a Palestinian unity government.

Abbas arrived in Doha on Monday to participate in an Arab League meeting on the peace process.

The Fatah official said he would head to Cairo on Tuesday to meet with Hamas senior official Musa Abu Marzouk to prepare for the Abbas-Mashaal summit.

The US has strongly opposed Abbas’s attempts to join forces with Hamas unless the Islamist movement recognized Israel’s right to exist and renounced violence.

Abbas’s renewed attempts to achieve unity with Hamas came amid reports that PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad was planning to submit his resignation to the PA president.

In a surprise move, Fayyad met on Monday in Jerusalem with Kerry. It’s not clear why the two chose to meet in Jerusalem and not in Ramallah.

Sources in Ramallah said that Fayyad was expected to quit or face being sacked by Abbas after months of escalating tension between the two men.

Tensions peaked recently when Fayyad accepted the resignation of his finance minister, Nabil Qassis, despite Abbas’s opposition.

Abbas is also reported to have been enraged over the fact that US President Barack Obama, who visited Ramallah last month, met separately with Fayyad.

Last week, Fatah leaders meeting in Ramallah urged Abbas to dismiss Fayyad.

Some accused Fayyad of seeking to undermine Abbas’s authority with the help of the US.

Meanwhile, PA officials refused Monday to talk about the Abbas-Kerry meeting, which took place in Ramallah on Sunday night.

Abbas and Kerry agreed during the meeting that the two parties would refrain from publicly commenting on the outcome of their discussions.

One official, however, confirmed that Abbas had asked that parts of Area C in the West Bank be transferred to PA control to pave the way for the resumption of the peace talks with Israel.

The official also said that Abbas’s main goal now was to secure the release of a significant number of Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails.

Asked whether the US had given the PA a green light to form a unity government with Hamas, the official said: “Palestinian unity is an internal issue and interest and we won’t allow any party to meddle in our internal affairs.
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