(photo credit: AP)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said Wednesday that his security officials are ready to take responsibility for the border crossings in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip as part of a moribund international border agreement that was scrapped after the Islamic group seized control over the coastal strip last year.
"We are ready to take over responsibility of the crossing points together with the European Union, the Egyptians and the Israelis," Abbas told a group of European parliamentarians in his West Bank headquarters.
The remarks by the Palestinian leader were the most senior Palestinian comments on the issue since Hamas blew open the border wall with Egypt last month.
Abbas pointedly criticized Hamas's action, which has led to a surge of popularity for the violent Islamic group after hundreds of thousands of Palestinians in Gaza were able to cross the border freely over a 12-day period.
"We consider this a very bad action against our brothers in Egypt," Abbas said.
"We can solve this political and humanitarian problem, but the problem cannot be solved by attacking Egyptian borders," he added.
At the same time, he said that Israel should allow staple goods into the Gaza Strip, including fuel and electricity, so that the coastal strip did not become "one big prison."
In his remarks, Abbas endorsed restoring a 2005 border agreement in which European monitors deployed on the Palestinian side prevented smuggling of weapons and gunmen, while Israel watched the border traffic via closed-circuit TV.
The agreement was scrapped after Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip in June.
Hamas has said that it does not want either Israel or the EU running the border, calling into question how such an agreement could be reached.
Speaking on a dais under a picture of late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, Abbas said that there was a "historic opportunity" to reach a peace agreement with Israel in the coming year.
He said that he would put any future accord - which, he said, must include an Israeli withdrawal to the 1967 lines with east Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian state - to a referendum.
Asked how he was dealing with the split in the Palestinian territories between the Hamas-run Gaza Strip and the Fatah-run West Bank, Abbas said that he wanted reconciliation with Hamas, and was ready to call early elections "at any time."
Join Jerusalem Post Premium Plus now for just $5 and upgrade your experience with an ads-free website and exclusive content. Click here>>