|PA President Mahmoud Abbas arrives in Tunisia 370 (R).(Photo by: REUTERS/Zoubeir Souissi)|
PA tells Tunisian president to cancel Gaza visit
By KHALED ABU TOAMEH
Official says PA has been trying to dissuade President Moncef Marzouki to cancel visit to avoid solidifying Palestinian divisions.
The Palestinian Authority has been trying to persuade Tunisian President Moncef
Marzouki to cancel a planned visit to the Gaza Strip, a PA official in Ramallah
said on Saturday.
The official said that the PA leadership has made it
clear to the Tunisian government that it is strongly opposed to Marzouki’s
visit, which is scheduled for next month.
“We have warned the Tunisians
that the visit would solidify divisions among the Palestinians and undermine
Palestinian representation,” the official added.
The PA fears that such
visits would bolster Hamas’s stance among Palestinians and give legitimacy to
its control over the Gaza Strip.
Last week, the PA leadership condemned a
visit to the Gaza Strip by Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, and last
October, PA officials also expressed outrage over the visit to the Gaza Strip of
Qatar’s emir, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani.
Mahmoud Habbash, PA
minister for religious affairs, issued a stern warning on Friday to world
leaders planning to visit the Gaza Strip.
“We want to tell all our
friends and brothers: Don’t try to play the chord of Palestinian division,” he
said, referring to the Tunisian president’s upcoming visit.
have trampled on all those who tried to play the chord of division and
Habbash, in a sermon delivered in Ramallah during Friday
prayers, said that all previous attempts to undermine the PLO’s status as the
sole and legitimate representative of the Palestinians had failed.
will stand against any Arab or Muslim leader who goes to the Gaza Strip with the
goal of deepening Palestinian divisions,” he cautioned. “Anyone who wants to go
to the Gaza Strip to express solidarity with our people should pass through only
one gate – that of the PLO, the State of Palestine and its
The PA would like Arab leaders and government officials to
visit Ramallah. The only Arab leader to visit Ramallah in the past few weeks was
Jordan’s King Abdullah, who came to congratulate PA President Mahmoud Abbas on
the UN General Assembly’s vote in favor of upgrading the Palestinians’ status to
nonmember observer state.
Last month, several Arab foreign ministers
called off a planned visit to Ramallah without offering any explanation. The
ministers were supposed to be part of a delegation headed by Arab League
Secretary-General Nabil Elarabi.
In the end, only Elarabi and the
Egyptian foreign minister traveled to Ramallah, where they held talks with Abbas
and senior PA officials. Some PA officials accused the Arab ministers of
succumbing to US pressure not to visit Ramallah. Others suggested that some of
the Arab countries were disappointed with Abbas for ignoring their advice not to
embark on his statehood bid at the UN.