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'Hamas delegation is in Cairo to discuss Schalit'
By KHALED ABU TOAMEH AND JPOST.COM STAFF
04/26/2011
Zahar discusses Hamas-Fatah reconciliation, Schalit; Abbas tells Egyptian diplomat Egypt is "backbone of Palestinian aspirations."
 
A Hamas delegation traveled to Cairo on Tuesday in order to discuss the release of captive IDF soldier Gilad Schalit, Israel Radio reported.

A Palestnian source told Israel Radio that the possible reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah will be the main topic of discussion at the meeting, but Schalit is also on the agenda.

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The delegation, which will be headed by Musa Abu Marzouk, deputy head of Hamas’s political bureau, is scheduled to meet with Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil Elaraby and members of the ruling military council.

Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar arrived in Cairo earlier this week for what was described as a “private visit” to relatives.

This was Zahar’s second visit to Cairo since former President Hosni Mubarak stepped down in February.

Hamas and Egyptian leaders have expressed a desire in improving their relations in the post-Mubarak era.

The Egyptians have signaled their willingness to reopen the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and the Gaza Strip.

In a goodwill gesture to Hamas, the Egyptian authorities have in recent weeks released scores of Palestinians who were held in Egyptian prisons because of their activities on behalf of the movement.

The Egyptians have also promised to look into Hamas’s request to open a representative office that would function as an unofficial embassy in Cairo.

Osama Hamdan, Hamas’s “foreign minister,” said on Tuesday that his movement was keen on improving its relationship with the new government in Egypt.

“Our contacts with Egypt are continuing,” he said. “We are discussing various issues related to the situation in the Palestinian arena and the reopening of the Rafah border crossing.”

At the same time that the Hamas delegation was meeting with officials in Cairo, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas sat down with an Egyptian diplomat in Ramallah.

In the meeting with Egyptian Ambassador to the PA Yasser Othman, Abbas said, "Egypt is the backbone of our people's aspirations toward having an independent state with Jerusalem as its capital," official Palestinian Authority news agency WAFA reported.

On the meeting's agenda was reconciliation between Abbas' Fatah and Hamas rulers in the Gaza Strip.

Despite the Hamas talks in Cairo, the Prime Minister's Office last week announced that Hamas has not responded to Israel's most recent offer for a prisoner exchange deal to free Schalit in over a year.

The statement came in response to scathing criticism from the soldier's grandfather in a letter publicized earlier in the day. The PMO said that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is in constant contact with captured IDF soldier Gilad Schalit's family, and feels their pain.

Zvi Schalit had charged that every time the media discusses Gilad, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu invites the soldier's parents, Noam and Aviva Schalit, to a meeting that does not yield any results. In his letter, he also accused Netanyahu of cruel cynicism.
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